Do you need the new COVID booster? Depends on how old you are.

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The CDC lowers quarantine times, too

Is COVID-19 over? Not by a long shot. But not everyone faces the same risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that adults ages 65 years and older take an additional updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine dose. 

What does the CDC know that the general population might not? That there’s an increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19 in older adults, thanks in great part to the impact of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The agency says that the virus has changed dramatically since 2020. Although COVID-19 remains common, when compared to 2020, individual infections are less likely to result in severe illness for most people in the U.S. – and that’s a good thing. 

However, “COVID-19 poses the highest risk for older adults, infants, and people with pre-existing medical conditions, and there are multiple ways people and communities can help reduce their risk of infection,” the CDC said in its update.

To be on the safe side, the CDC continues to offer free test kits that monitor for the latest strains. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-⁠home tests, a policy that began November 20, 2023.

If you did not order four tests earlier in the fall, you can place two orders for a total of 8 tests. If you’re interested in obtaining yours, the online form is available here.

CDC also reduces recommended length of quarantine

The CDC has also updated its guidance about how long people who contract COVID need to quarantine – stay at home and away from others. The agency feels that the treatments that are now available lessen symptoms and lower the risk of severe illness sufficiently enough that a 24-hour period will work.

“​​While every respiratory virus does not act the same, adopting a unified approach to limiting disease spread makes recommendations easier to follow and thus more likely to be adopted and does not rely on individuals to test for illness, a practice that data indicates is uneven,” the CDC said in a statement.

“The bottom line is that when people follow these actionable recommendations to avoid getting sick, and to protect themselves and others if they do get sick, it will help limit the spread of respiratory viruses, and that will mean fewer people who experience severe illness,” National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. Demetre Daskalakis added.

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