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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Dec. 27, that the isolation time for Americans who are asymptomatic after becoming infected with COVID-19 will be shortened. Now, instead of being isolated for 10 days, the organization reported that infected individuals can remain isolated for five days, and may leave isolation with a mask for up to an additional five days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Health officials said new scientific evidence suggests that the transmission of the coronavirus occurs in the early stages of the illness, which is one or two days prior to contracting symptoms and 2-3 days after. The Associated Press reported that the CDC’s decision to drastically shorten isolation periods was driven by the recent surge in the Omicron variant. Some data suggests that the new strain may be milder than the Delta variant.  The shortened isolation period will help to prevent people from having to stay isolated away from family, friends, and work for long periods of time. Omicron’s swift spread across the United States has drastically impacted jobs forcing small businesses to shut down temporarily and major airlines to cancel hundreds of flights as staff members and flight crews have fallen ill with the virus.

Additionally, the CDC has also updated the recommended quarantine period for individuals exposed to COVID-19. Unvaccinated individuals and people who are “six months out” from their second vaccine dose may quarantine for five days and follow strict mask use for an additional five days.

Although the Omicron may be milder, the strain, which now accounts for 73 percent of all cases, is highly transmissible. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press that the number of Omicron cases is expected to rise.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she explained. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

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