Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the guidance was in line with growing evidence that coronavirus patients are most contagious in the days immediately before and three days following symptoms appear.
This decision was also influenced by an increase in COVID-19-related cases, fueled by the omicron variant.
Early research indicates that omicron may cause milder illness than coronavirus. Experts warn that the infected can cause severe illness and require quarantine or isolation.
Rochelle Walensky, Director of CDC, said that the country is set to see a lot more omicron cases.
"Not all cases will be severe. Many of those cases will be asymptomatic," she said to The Associated Press Monday. "We want to ensure that there is a way to safely keep society running while we follow the science."
The agency relaxed rules that had previously required health care workers to be absent for a minimum of 10 days after a positive test. Workers can return to work within seven days of a negative test if they don't show symptoms. The agency suggested that the isolation time could be reduced to five days or less if there is severe staff shortages.
The CDC has changed the guidelines for isolation and quarantine to make it less strict.
People who do not experience symptoms will be affected by the change. Individuals who experience symptoms in isolation or during quarantine are advised to stay at home.
Lindsay Wiley, a public health expert at American University, stated that the confusion caused by the CDC's quarantine and isolation guidance had confused the public.
However, guidance is still complex.
For people infected, the isolation rules apply. These rules apply to people who have been vaccinated but are not fully vaccinated.
The clock begins the day after you test positive.
An infected person should be kept isolated for five days instead of the 10 recommended.
If you do not have symptoms after five days, you can resume normal activities, but you must still wear a mask for at least five additional days.
If you have not felt better after five days of isolating, you can stay at home until you feel better. Then you can start wearing a mask for five days.
These rules apply to people who have been in close contact or had contact with infected persons but are not yet infected.
The clock begins when someone is alerted that they might have been infected with the virus and ends at midnight.
Previously, the CDC advised that people who had not been fully vaccinated or who had come into close contact with infected persons should remain home for at most 10 days.
The agency now says that only booster shots-affected people can be allowed to skip quarantine, provided they wear masks for at least 10 consecutive days.
This is a significant change. Previously, those who had been fully vaccinated (defined by the CDC as two doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine) could be exempted from quarantine.
People who have had their first shots but did not receive boosters are now in the same position as others who were partially vaccinated. They can be released from quarantine after five working days, provided they continue to wear masks for five more days.
It is possible to suspend both isolation and quarantine for up to five days.
Many people are tested as soon as they feel the symptoms. However, many Americans also get tested to determine if they can travel to visit their family members or work. Experts say that a positive test may not give an exact time or pinpoint when the person is most contagious.
The risk of spreading infection drops significantly after five days. However, it doesn't disappear for everyone when people are infected. Dr. Aaron Glatt is a New York physician and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
He said, "If you reduce it to five days you're still going have a small but substantial number of people who can be contagious."
Walensky stated that wearing masks is a crucial part of the CDC guidance.
The new CDC guidance does not constitute a mandate. It is a recommendation to both employers and local officials. New York's state announced last week that it will expand the CDC's guidance to health care workers to include those who hold other crucial jobs and are in severe shortage of staff.
Other states may seek to reduce their quarantine and isolation policies. The CDC hopes to be ahead of this shift. Walensky stated that it would be beneficial to have a uniform CDC guideline, which others can use, and not a mix of policies.
Wiley stated that the update was made in response to business pressures because of the timing of the surge in case counts. She said that some experts had been calling for the change for months because the spread of the disease was slowing down with shorter quarantine and isolation periods.
The CDC's decision follows a U.K. official's decision to shorten the self-isolation period of vaccinated persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.