AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) —The CDC is shortening the COVID-19 isolation period for health care workers as cases continue to rise around the nation.
The new recommended guidance from the CDC cuts the quarantine time for healthcare workers from 10 days to seven.
Health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can now return to work after seven days if they receive a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut shorter if there are staffing emergencies.
Also, those who have received all COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures.
“As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities. Our priority, remains prevention—and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted.”
It’s a move that has some health care professionals worried. National Nurses United, which is the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, has condemned the move saying doing this during what could be the most devastating surge yet will only result in more transmission, illness and death.
“Although there might be a push to say let’s get back there sooner and see if it works, what you are doing is putting you and the patients more at risk and taking the chance of ramping up the pandemic,” said Jean Ross, National Nurses United president. “Lessening from 10 to seven, this is the worst time to be doing this.”
Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS association says it’s a difficult decision to make, but at this time, it is appropriate.
“We do need to balance making sure we have enough staff in the field that aren’t being unnecessarily quarantined and so we are having to make this awful choice,” said Xie. “Do we shorten the quarantine, which does increase risk, but it also provides more staffing, or do we keep the very safe 10-day and thereby reducing the number of staff and increasing burnout?”
The new guidance currently applies only to workers in health care, according to the CDC website.