The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its COVID-19 guidelines last week, much to the concern of health care professionals.
The CDC now recommends that people who are diagnosed with COVID isolate for five days if they are asymptomatic or if their symptoms are improving and they do not have a fever for over 24 hours. After that, the CDC says that it is OK to go outside, so long as they wear a mask around other people for the next five days. This is half the amount of time it previously suggested.
The rationale behind this is that most COVID transmissions take place within the first few days of illness, including the two days before most people show symptoms or get tested.
For people who have been exposed to COVID and have not been vaccinated, the CDC also recommends a five day quarantine and mask use for the next five days. The same recommendations apply to people who received two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over six months ago and have not received a booster shot, or were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over two months ago and have not been boosted.
People who have received a booster shot do not need to be isolated after they have been exposed to COVID, but should wear a mask for the following 10 days, the CDC recommends.
Anyone who is exposed to COVID and begins showing symptoms of the virus, regardless of vaccine status, should quarantine and be tested for the virus, according to the CDC.
Even though the majority of COVID transmissions happen within the first five days of contracting the virus, 20%-40% of people can still transmit the virus over five days after they catch it, Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease expert at University of Chicago’s Medicine, told NPR. Furthermore, a crucial component of the CDC’s new guidelines is compliance with masking recommendations, which health experts are concerned that many people will not do.
Both critics and supporters of the new guidelines cite the Omicron-variant in their arguments against or in favor of these new guidelines. Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants of COVID and is now the predominant strand in the United States, although only a handful of cases have been diagnosed in Alaska as of Friday, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Since Omicron is so contagious, many are saying that this is no time to loosen guidelines. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky sees things differently: more people will be catching COVID, so it is no longer reasonable to expect people to stay isolated from society for so long. Doing so will hinder societal functions and harm the economy, she told NPR.
“We can’t take science in a vacuum,” she said to NPR. “We have to put science in the context of how it can be implemented in a functional society.”
Over 265,000 people in the United States are being diagnosed with COVID every day, as of Dec. 28, the John Hopkins University reported. Due to the holidays, the Center for Disease Control has not had a weekly COVID report since Dec. 17.
Alaska is faring better than most states — there were 996 new cases identified in the state between Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced on Wednesday. There are approximately 1,740 known, active cases, according to numbers reported by the DHSS on Friday. However, test positivity in the state is over 7.5%, the DHSS said on Wednesday. This indicates that the number of COVID cases is underreported. The state is on high alert as of Friday, according to the DHSS.
There are 55 known, active cases of COVID in Kodiak as of Friday, the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center reported.