The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to shorten its recommendation for how long people should quarantine to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus from the current fourteen days to as few as seven.
The health agency is hoping such a change will motivate more people to comply with the guidelines.
“CDC is always reviewing its guidance and recommendations in the light of new understandings of the virus that causes COVID-19, and will announce such changes when appropriate,” a spokesperson for the agency said in an emailed statement.
Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for the COVID-19 response, told the Wall Street Journal that the new guidelines would also include an additional test to ensure that an individual is negative for the coronavirus before ending self-isolation.
He added that once the test is negative, the probability of the person going on to develop an infection and spreading the virus “is pretty low.”
“We do think that the work that we’ve done, and some of the studies we have and the modeling data that we have, shows that we can with testing shorten quarantines,” Walke told the paper.
Currently, the CDC advises that those who have been in close contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19 immediately enter a quarantine period for fourteen days. The two weeks is based on how long scientists believe it can take the virus to incubate in the body and potentially be spread to others.
In a media briefing last month, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield admitted that the agency was considering shortening the length of quarantine by up to a week.
At the time, Redfield noted that researchers were examining whether “you can use testing during the quarantine to determine if you can shorten the quarantine to seven or ten days.”
Without the additional testing, however, he added that a percentage of infectious cases could potentially be missed.
“Obviously, we don’t want people to be quarantined fourteen days unnecessarily,” Redfield said.
Last month, the CDC revised its language on what it defines as “close contact” with a coronavirus-positive individual.
Previously, health officials considered close contact to be spending fifteen consecutive minutes within six feet of an infected person. But the definition was changed to being within six feet of an infected individual for a total of fifteen minutes or more over a twenty-four-hour period.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.