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Coronavirus update: CDC cuts COVID-19 isolation time in half

The White House is handing pandemic strategy back to the states

COVID-19 concept with virus particles in head
Photo (c) Andriy Onufriyenko - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 52,912,744 (52,460,229)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 819,253 (817,031)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 281,591,352 (280,738,431)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,410,921 (5,404,167)‌

CDC shortens COVID-19 isolation time

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its COVID-19 guidance to reduce the time people who test positive should isolate. Instead of 10 days of quarantine, the agency now says patients only need to isolate for five days.

“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others,” the CDC said in its revised guidance

Why the change in the midst of a surge of new cases? The CDC said the change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the first two days prior to the onset of symptoms.

White House pivots on pandemic strategy

The Biden administration has announced a strategic shift in how it plans to handle the pandemic going forward. The president says the virus should be addressed at the state level, with plenty of federal support.

“There is no federal solution,” Biden declared Monday. “This gets solved at a state level.”

In a speech to the nation’s governors, Biden made clear that his previous pledge of free test kits still stands. The president told the governors that they should speak up if their state needs help coping with the virus.

FDA clears a new treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Merck's molnupiravir for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The pill is limited to use in adult patients.

Molnupiravir will be available by prescription only and should be taken as soon as possible after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of symptom onset, the FDA said.

“Molnupiravir is limited to situations where other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are inaccessible or are not clinically appropriate and will be a useful treatment option for some patients with COVID-19 at high risk of hospitalization or death," said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. 

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Hoboken is the latest city in New Jersey to reinstate an indoor mask mandate. Starting Wednesday, the city's Office of Emergency Management will require a mask to be worn in all public indoor spaces for anyone aged two and older, with the exception of when they're actively eating or drinking. 

  • Illinois: The state’s top medical officer is expressing concern about a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, especially among children. "We're still looking at our numbers,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “I have anecdotally talked to many pediatricians who are heads of departments or hospitals who are seeing that there is an increase, so we are going to continue to follow those numbers."

  • Michigan: There were long lines at COVID-19 testing sites in the Detroit area Monday as people sought tests following the Christmas holiday. Home rapid test kits quickly sold out, prompting people to turn to urgent care and emergency rooms to get tested.

  • California: An investigative report by Kaiser Health News shows that a significant number of hospital patients who are admitted for minor surgery contract COVID-19 while in the hospital. The report says hospitals “have rarely been held accountable due to multiple gaps in government oversight.” 

  • North Carolina: In North Carolina, COVID-19 patients are getting younger. An investigation by media outlet WRAL found that 10- to 14-year-olds have seen the highest rates of infection since August. That rate reached 871 cases per 100,000 people during mid-August – the highest case rate for any age group since the pandemic began.

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