The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its Covid-19 guidance on Thursday because, the agency says, the virus presents a lower risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death than it did at the start of 2020.
"This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives," said Greta Massetti, a CDC epidemiologist, in a statement.
If you're not up-to-date with your vaccines and have been exposed to Covid, you no longer need to quarantine. Instead, it's recommended that you mask for 10 days and get tested on Day Five.
Assuming you do test positive for Covid, here are the CDC's updated guidelines:
- If you've tested positive and have a healthy immune system, regardless of vaccination status, you should isolate for five days. Isolation can be ended at Day Six if you no longer have symptoms or have not had a fever for 24 hours and your symptoms have improved.
- Once isolation has ended, the agency recommends you wear a high-quality mask through Day 10. If you test negative on two rapid antigen tests, though, you can stop wearing your mask sooner.
- Until Day 11 at least, you should refrain from visiting or being around people who are more likely to have severe outcomes from Covid, including the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Those with weakened immune systems or people who were hospitalized before with Covid are encouraged to isolate for 10 days and consult with their doctor before ending isolation. Likewise if you are experiencing shortness of breath due to the virus, you're recommended to isolate for 10 days.
This means students can now stay in the classroom this fall even if they've been exposed to Covid, the CDC said on Wednesday. It's still recommended that students and school staff mask for 10 days and test on Day Five in the case of an exposure.
The push for this decision may come from a new statistic: 95% of the U.S. population has some level of immunity against Covid, according to Massetti.
"High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection and the many available tools to protect the general population and protect people at higher risk allow us to focus on protecting people from serious illness from Covid," she said during a call with reporters on Thursday.