Healthcare workers take a break at the ProHEALTH testing site in Jericho, New York.
- The CDC set looser interim federal guidance on isolation periods for healthcare workers amid Omicron spread.
- Asymptomatic personnel may return to work within 7 days of infection with a negative test result.
- In a crisis capacity, workers who are fully vaccinated and boosted can return to work with no restrictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slashed the isolation timeline for healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 as the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant puts a strain on hospitals nationwide.
The CDC on Thursday released looser federal interim guidelines for workers who were infected with the coronavirus but are asymptomatic, allowing such personnel to return to work after seven days with a negative test result. Previously, the CDC recommended an isolation period of at least 10 days with a negative result.
“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,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
“Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe,” Walensky added, “and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities.”
Per the guidance, if a healthcare facility is experiencing significant staff shortages then workers who were infected, regardless of their vaccination status, are allowed to return to work within five days of a positive infection — with or without a negative test — if they are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
Asymptomatic workers who were in high-risk exposure situations but are fully vaccinated and boosted can return to work with no restrictions.
In a crisis capacity, workers who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, are allowed to return to work if they are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, according to the guidance.
—Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) December 23, 2021
The updated guidance comes as the US faces a surge in COVID-19 infections amid the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The Omicron variant is now the most common coronavirus variant in the US, the CDC announced earlier this week.
Federal officials said the variant, which is highly transmissible, accounts for 73% of recent confirmed cases in the US, according to CDC data. In some areas of the US, the variant makes up more than 90% of confirmed cases.