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CDC changes COVID-19 quarantine, isolation guidelines

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani details the CDC's revisions to its COVID-19 guidelines regarding quarantine procedures for exposed individuals, including reduced isolation time, in addition to highlighting the testing kit scarcity and Dr. Fauci's latest recommendations for air travel.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: But first, let's talk about the latest with the coronavirus and in particular, new guidance on quarantines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our Anjalee Khemlani is here to give us the lowdown on that. This is a pretty significant change that they are making in their recommended guidance.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right Julie, really significant change and also based on what we've really come to know about the virus and how much it is able to transmit and how infectious it is, really in the early part of infection. So that's where the CDC is basing their new guidance from. What they've changed is a shortening of how long people have to isolate or quarantine, based on whether or not they are exposed to COVID or actually test COVID positive.

Largely speaking, it really benefits those who are asymptomatic or boosted, so let's go through what changed. So we know that the recommendation had been at 10 days of isolation until now. What's changed now is that if you test COVID positive but are asymptomatic, you will need to isolate for five days only, but then continue wearing a mask for five days after that.

If you're exposed to COVID and you are not vaccinated or you are only-- or you've only received your primary course of vaccines, then you do need to still quarantine for five days but then can wear a mask for five days after that. If you're boosted, no quarantine required but you do still need to wear a mask for the full 10 days. This also does have a caveat and if it's not feasible to quarantine or to isolate, the CDC has said that wearing a mask for the full 10 days is still allowed.

So this all, again, is based on the fact that Omicron is showing really significant transmissibility and the CDC is trying to help out. We've seen the pressure from employers in the private sector to ensure that workers can come back to work. We saw what happened over the holiday weekend with airlines having to cancel flights. Health care workers have also been feeling the crunch, and we saw the CDC change that-- the guidance for them as well last week.

Also along similar lines, reducing the isolation time to seven days there but also noting that if it's not feasible, if staffing shortages are severe, then records can come in even before that. This has received really mixed reviews from health experts that are concerned about the message this is sending about really, you know, lowering maybe the concern that people may have about the virus. So that's where things stand right now on the CDC guidelines.

Meanwhile we also know that, broadly speaking, tests are still in high demand and in shortage and a lot of efforts and a lot of pressure on health systems across the country. We heard from President Joe Biden yesterday, talking about just what the federal government is doing to help, but said that it's actually largely a state-level issue and will be resolved at the state level. Here's what he had to say.

JOE BIDEN: We've worked with Google so you can now search "COVID test near me" on Google to find a location. And now I know the lines have gotten very long in some states. That's why I ordered FEMA to set up pop-up sites and places with high demand to shorten the wait. We stood up six new sites in New York City in five days and there are more coming.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So as you can hear, you know, a lot more being done in pushing for resources to reach the state level. But the Biden administration now-- and some experts are saying in what seems like a pivot-- is putting more precedence and more pressure on the states to really do the work to make sure that people are vaccinated and tested and have the resources they need. Back to you.

BRIAN SOZZI: And Anjalee, speaking of domestic air travel, Dr. Fauci making some comments on this front.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right. Dr. Fauci did say that he-- he said that the US should consider the idea of vaccine mandates for domestic travel. That's been something that experts have been talking about, really for quite some time, ever since international travel got that mandate slapped on it. So it's something that he did say in an interview, but other reports are saying that the administration is not weighing that at this time.

So we don't know where that will land. But it is something that some people have been calling for, saying that it could help to improve with curbing the transmissibility, especially in light, again, of how transmissible Omicron seems to be.

JULIE HYMAN: Now, interesting apparently study out of South Africa about the Omicron variant. And actually one advantage-- seems strange to say that-- of getting it may be. Or one hopeful side effect? I don't know. What would you call this, Anjalee?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: I don't know, byproduct by accident?

JULIE HYMAN: There you go.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: But yeah. Yeah, the new study. So last week, we brought you the news that the Omicron variant does seem to have reduced infectiousness, reduced severity of infection. And the same experts have done another study along with others in South Africa, looking at what the impact is of someone who has been infected by Omicron.

And it looks like they do build up-- because Omicron, again, is so transmissible, and it also is showing reduced-- or the ability to escape vaccine protection, that is resulting in a different type of protection. And so they're able to show that an Omicron infection actually reduces the possibility of getting infected by Delta. And so that's sort of, like I said, an interesting byproduct.

But it sort of plays into the idea-- and what experts are saying about the result of this is that really, if you do have that infection, if you're looking at what it means for the trajectory of the pandemic, if one variant is providing immunity to another that has more severe disease, you could be sort of giving additional protection, really, in addition to what vaccines could provide.

And the study is also based on a really small sample. It's just 13 patients. They did have various levels of vaccination status and boosting status. So it's kind of a mixed picture, but it's an interesting little news nugget, I guess. Back to you.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah. I mean, hopefully we'll get more of those, right? Because as you say, that is an extraordinarily small sample size. So if we're approaching it scientifically, which you and many of your colleagues in the health care reporting community have taught us to do, we need to wait for more information. Thank you, Anjalee, appreciate it.