President Biden said Friday that the recommended quarantine period for most Americans who test positive for COVID-19 will remain 10 days — despite the at-home period being cut to just seven days for healthcare workers one day before.
“I just listen to my team and the docs, and they think we should keep it the way it is for now,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question after he joined a NORAD Santa-tracking call on Christmas Eve.
The CDC said Thursday that asymptomatic healthcare workers who test negative for COVID-19 could be back on the job as soon as seven days after testing positive for the virus.
The revised guidance also noted that “isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages.”
The change was made to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed as the more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus drives record infection rates in New York City and other areas of the country.
“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 Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a Thursday statement.
“Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities,” she added. “Our priority remains prevention—and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted.”
The guidance stipulates that workers must test negative no more than 48 hours before their return.
Other industries have asked for the isolation window to be shortened to avoid worker shortages amid the Omicron surge.
On Tuesday, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asked Walensky in a letter to cut the 10-day isolation period in half for vaccinated workers with “breakthrough” infections.
“Our employees represent an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally,” he wrote,
“With the rapid spread of the [O]micron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operations.”
On Friday, Delta and United Airlines said they had canceled scheduled flights due in part to COVID-induced staff shortages.
As of Friday evening, Delta had canceled 145 flights scheduled for Friday and 111 for Christmas Day, according to FlightAware. United had called off 175 scheduled Friday flights and 69 scheduled for Saturday.