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CDC director says new COVID-19 isolation rules were based on ‘what we thought people would be able to tolerate’

CDC director Rochelle Walensky testifying before the Senate on July 20.

J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/via Getty Images

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday that the shortened COVID-19 isolation guidelines were based on what the CDC “thought people would be able to tolerate.”

“It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” Walensky told Katilan Collins on CNN, after she asked if the decision had as much to do with business as it did with science. 

The CDC on Monday updated its recommended isolation policy for people who are infected from 10 days to five days — as long as they don’t have any symptoms. 

She added: “We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic.” 

Walensky said the CDC’s isolation guidance was previously “conservative” and that the changes were made in the context of expecting a surge in COVID-19 cases where many people would be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.  

“People would feel well enough to be at work — they would not necessarily tolerate being home — and if they may not comply with being home this is the moment that we needed to make that decision and those changes,” she said.

According to the latest data from the CDC, the highly infectious Omicron variant accounts for around 59% of all COVID-19 cases in the US — which is up from 23% of cases last week. 

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