The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday updated their Covid-19 community and school guidelines, easing several key recommendations.
People exposed to the virus will no longer be required to self-quarantine at home regardless of their vaccination status, although the new guidelines require them to wear a mask for 10 days and get tested for the virus on day 5. Routine surveillance testing of people without symptoms is no longer recommended in most settings.
People who test positive for the virus will be required to self-isolate at home for at least another five days, and masking guidelines — which recommend that people wear masks indoors in places where Covid-19 levels in the community are high — have not changed.
The changes signal a new phase of the pandemic, officials and experts said.
“We know Covid-19 is here to stay,” Greta Massetti, a CDC epidemiologist, said at a news conference on Thursday. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools we have available to protect people from serious illness and death, have put us in a different place.”
The new guidelines are aimed at protecting people from serious illness, added Dr. Massetti to it. They emphasize the importance of vaccination and other measures, including antiviral treatments and ventilation.
Many health experts praised the new guidelines as a pragmatic approach to living with the virus in the longer term. “I think this is a welcome change,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It actually shows how far we’ve come.”
But the pandemic was not over, they noted, and new variants or future peaks may require stricter measures.
With the rapidly spreading BA.5 version of Omicron on the way, the United States is registering an average of more than 100,000 cases and nearly 500 deaths per day.
And while nearly all Americans are now eligible to be vaccinated, many are unaware of their shots. Only 30 percent of 5 to 11 year olds and 60 percent of 12 to 17 year olds have received their primary vaccine series nationwide. Of the adults 65 and older, who are most at risk for serious illness, 65 percent have received a booster.
Critical therapies, such as antiviral treatments, remain difficult for many to access.
“It’s clear that we need to do more to ensure that more people can take advantage of the protections these tools offer and that more people have access to those tools,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at the United Nations. Brown University School. of Public Health. “I really think there’s been a general callback in the ground game it takes to get people vaccinated.”