The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new isolation and quarantine guidance for health care workers, as the highly contagious omicron variant threatens to infect frontline hospital personnel and further burden the country’s strained health care sector.
Health care workers can now isolate for a shorter period of time following a COVID-19 exposure, the CDC announced Thursday evening. If workers test positive for the virus but are asymptomatic, they can return to the frontlines after seven days with a negative COVID test.
That isolation time could be reduced even more based on staffing shortages, the CDC said.
In updated quarantine guidance, the CDC said workers do not need to stay home following “high-risk exposures” if they are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID.
“Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “Our priority, remains prevention— and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted.”
The CDC on Thursday stopped short of outlining new isolation and quarantine protocols for the public.
The shifting federal public health guidance comes as Massachusetts grapples with an alarming surge of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The Baker administration this week ordered Massachusetts hospitals to “postpone or cancel all nonessential elective procedures likely to result in inpatient admission in order to maintain and increase inpatient capacity.”
Hospitals across the state lost 500 acute care inpatient beds over the past year due to “unprecedented staffing shortage,” the Department of Public Health has said. Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday also activated up to 500 members of the National Guard “to address the non-clinical support needs of hospitals and transport systems.”
More than 70% of all coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Massachusetts are among unvaccinated people, Baker said in a tweet Thursday evening.
“Getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to protect you and your family from #COVID19MA,” Baker said in his tweet. “Unvaccinated residents continue to get seriously ill and be hospitalized.”