U.S. CDC shortens isolation time for COVID-infected health workers amid staff shortages
"Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shortened the isolation periods for healthcare workers infected with COVID-19, due to hospital staffing shortages driven by the surge in new cases and hospitalizations.
The CDC revised its guidelines on Thursday, recommending that healthcare workers who are asymptomatic return to work after seven days with a negative test, adding that "isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages."
The agency also said that those workers who have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures.
The new guidelines apply to all healthcare facilities that are directly involved in patient care, which include hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices and other medical sites.
"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 Rochelle Walensky.
"Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities," she said.
Walensky urged all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted.
The CDC stressed that the new guidelines do not extend to the general public and only apply to the healthcare workforce.
Others who are infected COVID-19 should isolate for 10 full days, according to CDC guidance.
Some health experts and business leaders are hoping that the CDC will consider loosening the period for all vaccinated Americans.
The CDC said it continues to evaluate isolation and quarantine recommendations for the broader population as it learns about the Omicron variant and will update the public as appropriate.
The new Omicron variant is driving a winter surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the United States.
Many hospitals are already overburdened, especially with patients who remain unvaccinated and those who have delayed necessary care during the pandemic. Doctors, nurses and other workers have suffered extensive burnout.
U.S. President Joe Biden said this week that 1,000 military medical professionals would be deployed to help hospitals, and the U.S. National Guard is already working in some nursing homes and hospitals to address understaffing in several states.