On Wednesday, December 2, the CDC made an announcement highlighting “acceptable alternatives” to the recommended 14-day quarantine following potential exposure to COVID-19. This new alternative is flexible, meaning the quarantine could last anywhere from only a week to 10 days, depending on the circumstances. With a new system in place, especially now that the holidays are nearing, it’s important to discuss how this shorter quarantine will affect travelers.
According to an official announcement made by CDC incident manager for COVID-19 response, Henry Walke, a quarantine can end after 10 days if a person experiences no symptoms, and the quarantine period could be as short as one week if a person experiences no symptoms, and also receives a negative COVID-19 test that’s been collected and tested within 48 hours of the “planned quarantine discontinuation”. However, even with a negative test, the quarantine should still last a minimum of 10 days after potential exposure.
Essentially, the CDC is betting U.S. citizens will be likelier to comply with a more reasonable quarantine of 7 to 10 days. Since the CDC began making statements regarding the novel coronavirus, the recommendation has always been a 14-day quarantine. States have even used this number to determine how long incoming travelers should quarantine upon arrival.
During the briefing, Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC’s COVID-19 response, noted that either the PCR to the antigen test may be used to discontinue the quarantine period, which may be good news for travelers. Although there is always a risk of infections going undetected, better adherence to quarantine and testing recommendations could be good news for everyone.
The CDC also has additional advice specifically for holiday travelers. “With the upcoming winter holidays, it is important for people to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible,” says Walke. The test, he says, “should be combined with reducing nonessential activities for a full seven days after travel.”
Although the CDC is still encouraging travelers to postpone trips and stay home, those who do choose to travel should get tested for COVID-19 1 to 3 days prior to departure and again 3 to 5 days after returning home. Without a test, that quarantine period can become 10 days.
The latest recommendations from the CDC could certainly have an impact on travel restrictions and guidelines across the country. It could even have implications for international travel and airlines that are requiring negative COVID-19 tests in hand.