Federal health officials are considering easing the CDC’s current 10-day COVID-19 isolation guideline — arguing the stealth lockdown restriction may be more harmful to people than the raging Omicron variant.
The proposed change — which medical experts say should be urgently adopted — would affect fully vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 but no longer have symptoms, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
The recommendation comes as lawmakers vow not to repeat the kind of lockdowns they installed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, yet continue to push the 10-day isolation window — even as it threatens to wreak havoc on the economy and people’s lives, critics say.
This “one-size-fits-all 10 day period” is unnecessary for many people and “extremely disruptive,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, to The Post.
“A realistic isolation period is one which lasts so long as contagiousness lasts. It may be as short as a few days in some people and longer in others,” he said.
The current guidance by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for people who have tested positive to isolate for 10 days after symptoms develop.
But opponents argue that given the sweeping Omicron variant, such a time frame could eventually cripple hospitals and the economy if an influx of employees who can’t work remotely are forced to quarantine the full 10 days.
Public-health experts backing a shorter isolation window say the longer restriction doesn’t make sense for the fully vaxxed because data suggests that vaccinated people appear to shed the virus, thus stop being contagious, faster than those who haven’t received their shots.
Omicron, now by far the most prevalent variant in the country, also appears to not be as dangerous in general to most people’s health.
Meanwhile, more and more people are getting vaccinated and using rapid tests to determine whether they’ve contracted COVID-19 — all of which can easily whittle down that quarantine window, experts say.
Adalja said daily rapid testing until a person returns a negative result could be the answer to “precision-guide the isolation period for individuals.”
Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, told The Post that by using the 10-day quarantine guideline, the feds “are treating everyone the same, and the data shows they are not the same.”
He said vaccinated people who get COVID but have minimal to low symptoms should only have to isolate for “five to six days max” – providing they get a negative test before they stop quarantining.
Del Rio warned that if the isolation period isn’t reduced for the fully vaccinated, hospitals would become understaffed and other critical industries – such as airlines – could be drastically effected by workers calling out sick to isolate.
While Fauci said no firm decisions have been made on the isolation debate, he told CNN’s New Day that the “important consideration” was being discussed for the fully vaxxed group – particularly in the context of healthcare workers.
“Rather than keeping [healthcare workers] out for seven to 10 days, if they are without symptoms, put a N95 mask on them, make sure they have the proper PPE, and they might be able to get back to work sooner than the full length of the quarantine period,” Fauci said.
The National Guard had to be called up in Wisconsin earlier this month for the first time in the state’s history to help man its health centers for the disabled and mentally ill because of staffing shortages.
In New York City, dozens of restaurants and Broadway shows were recently forced to temporarily shut down or close altogether in the lead up to Christmas after staffers tested positive or were exposed to COVID.
Restaurant owners took to social media in droves to inform patrons of closures to give their staff time to get tested or isolate.
The Four Horsemen in Williamsburg noted on Instagram it was shutting its doors until Dec. 28 after staff were exposed. Raoul’s Restaurant in SoHo said it was closing until at least Dec. 27 due to similar exposures.
Broadway’s “Jagged Little Pill” announced Monday that it was shutting down for good over the coronavirus, and shows including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” and Disney’s “Aladdin” shuttered performances through Christmas amid in-house outbreaks.
In New York, both the state and city still urge the CDC’s guidance of 10-day isolation.
“The guidance is the same,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday during a daily briefing. “It’s just very, very clear, that 10-day quarantine.”
City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi added, “If you’re a case — meaning either you’re symptomatic or you’ve been diagnosed with a positive COVID test but are asymptomatic — the guidance is to isolate for 10 days.”
A state Health Department rep told the Post the 10-day guidance still stood, too — but that the agency is “constantly evaluating based on the situations presented to us by COVID-19 and the new Omicron variant.”
The Omicron variant is now responsible for about three-fourths of all new COVID-19 cases in the US, according to the CDC’s latest data.