CDC director defends new COVID guidelines reducing isolation period

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies on Capitol Hill as Dr. Anthony Fauci listens, July 20, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool via Reuters)

(Yahoo News) – Amid criticism from public health officials, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky defended new guidelines released this week that halved the isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic or whose symptoms are ‘resolving.’

“This virus has proven its ability to adapt quickly and we must adapt with it,” Walensky said Wednesday during a briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team.

The CDC announced the changes Monday, saying they were “shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others.”

During Wednesday’s press briefing, Walensky said that “studies show that people are most infectious in the one-to-two days before symptoms develop, and in the two-to-three days after,” with an estimated 85-90 percent of transmission occurring in the first five days of infection with COVID-19.

“After five days, the risk of transmission substantially decreases,” she said.

Walensky also addressed the CDC’s controversial decision not to recommend that people who’ve been infected with COVID-19 obtain a negative test after five days before they stop isolating. She said that the CDC did not know if antigen, or rapid, tests were capable of assessing transmissibility at day five and beyond, while the PCR tests could show a positive result up to 12 weeks after infection — “long after” a person is no longer infectious — limiting their utility in preventing further spread of the virus at that stage.

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