The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decision last week to shorten its recommended COVID-19 isolation and quarantine periods to five days for asymptomatic individuals (followed by masking for five more days) did not go over well with many folks.
The CDC changed the rule because “science demonstrat[es] that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”
Several critics called bullsh*t and said that the CDC was merely bowing to pressure from businesses to get workers back working sooner. Indeed, this topic became so popular on Twitter that “The CDC says” started trending.
(I’m sorry, but when I read, “The CDC says you can now wipe back to front,” I laughed out loud. But then when I read, “The CDC says it’s now ok to watch your dog stretch without saying “oooooh, BIG STRETCH,” I started checking my house lamps and telephones for bugs.)
Over the weekend — on Sunday to be specific — Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss the new CDC guidance. When asked about the CDC’s shift, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that “the CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that.” Dr. Fauci also confirmed that the CDC is considering amending the isolation guidance for asymptomatic patients to include testing. We should be hearing more from the CDC about this very soon.
Perhaps this may coincide with introducing new at-home COVID-19 tests that are better suited to testing for the omicron variant of COVID-19. The efficacy of some at-home tests on the omicron variant may have been one of the reasons that the CDC did not include a negative test with the shortened isolation period in its most recent update.
Whatever may trigger the change, employers are free to adopt more restrictive rules (e.g., requiring ten days symptom-free or a negative test or both) before returning to the workplace. Remember that the company may be responsible for paying for the employee’s time spent testing and the test itself in some jurisdictions. Your mileage may vary.
If employees test positive for COVID-19, they can still work remotely if able, where feasible. You may want to consider a remote-only option to keep employees isolated and healthy for the foreseeable future.