CDC stops short of requiring test for ending COVID isolation

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 07 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period. Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved,” the CDC said.

Following days of criticism over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision last week to shorten its recommended isolation period for those who test positive for coronavirus but have no symptoms, the agency now acknowledges that the “best approach” includes seeking out a rapid at-home COVID-19 test before ending isolation, according to cbsnews.

However, the CDC’s new recommendations stop short of setting out a requirement for a negative rapid COVID-19 test before leaving the shortened isolation period for those with no symptoms, as some experts have called for

COVID-19 tests are in short supply amid the spike in Omicron cases, with many stores and websites sold out of the rapid at-home antigen tests and people facing hours-long lines for limited offerings of free tests.

“The appropriate tool in this pandemic to answer the question, ‘Do I need to isolate? Am I infectious and a risk to my neighbors?’ is using a rapid antigen test because it only stays positive as long as you are infectious,” epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina, the chief science officer at eMed, told “CBS Mornings.”

In explaining why they decided not to require a rapid test, the CDC said negative antigen tests do “not necessarily indicate the absence of transmissible virus.” The agency also pointed to the Food and Drug Administration’s authorizations governing use of the tests, saying that the regulator had not specifically OK’d the at-home kits “to evaluate duration of infectiousness.” 

“There continues to be confusion around this, in large part because of how we continue to regulate the tests at the FDA. It leads to claims that are written on the box that are not necessarily in line with how Americans actually are wanting to use the test. And that puts the CDC a bit in a box,” Mina had said. 

The update comes amid a flurry of changes published Tuesday by the CDC laying out more detailed guidance for those who must “quarantine” after being exposed to the virus or “isolate” after testing positive, beyond its recommendations last month that cut isolation for many Americans down from 10 days to five days if they don’t have symptoms. 

To end isolation, the CDC acknowledges that some symptoms — like loss of taste or smell — “may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay” Americans returning to their lives. 

However, the agency urges that people looking to end their isolation period after five days should do so only if most of their symptoms, like fever, have improved without continued use of medications, and they should wear a “well-fitting mask” to protect other people.


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