CDC Relaxes COVID-19 Isolation Precautions

  • Published
  • 1 March 2024
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  • News

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated recommendations today to help prevent the spread of infectious respiratory illnesses. The guidance includes relaxation of COVID-19 isolation precautions, a decision driven by declines in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths and advances in treatment methods.

People with symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches and malaise are advised to stay home and away from others until at least 24 hours after resolution of fever and symptoms improve overall. This recommendation addresses the period of greatest infectiousness and highest viral load for most people, which is typically in the first few days of illness. Five additional days of interventions (e.g., masking, testing, distancing, improved air quality, hygiene, and/or testing) are recommended to reduce exposure risk for others; some people with respiratory infections remain contagious longer than they realize. Previous COVID-19 guidance recommended a minimum home isolation period of five days plus a period of post-isolation precautions.

In addition to home isolation, the CDC’s guidance on respiratory illness prevention covers immunizations, good hygiene practices, clean air sources, masks, physical distancing, testing and treatment. There are specific recommendations for people with risk factors for severe illness, including older adults, infants and young children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and people with weakened immune systems.

The updated guidance is intended for community settings. It does not apply to health care facilities.

While respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza and RSV vary, public health officials believe that a uniform approach to infectious respiratory disease prevention will help make it easier for people to remember to take certain precautions.