The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance for Healthcare workers about how to handle quarantining and isolation as the highly contagious omicron COVID-19 variant surges throughout 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 press release Thursday. "Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities. Our priority, remains prevention — and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted."
The new guidance reduces the isolation time for healthcare workers before they can return to the job to try and keep staffing levels up as the number of omicron infections increase throughout the country.
According to the agency, workers who are asymptomatic can return to work with a negative test seven days after exposure, and possibly sooner if staffing levels are needed.
Those workers that are fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine at home following a high-risk exposure, the agency said.
The guidelines only apply to healthcare workers and could be revised to protect the health of the workers and patients as more information on the omicron variant comes to light.
The new variant, which appeared first in South Africa, has now spread dramatically, going from just 12% of new cases the week of Dec. 11, to 73% of new cases a week later, according to the CDC.
According to the updated guidance, healthcare providers that have even mild symptoms should make it a priority to get one of the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization tests to see if they have been infected.
They may be retested at the discretion of the clinician treating the worker, and an infectious disease specialist should be consulted if the tests yield conflicting results.
Workers that exhibit mild to moderate illness, and who are not immunocompromised, should not return to work for seven days and only after a negative test result is logged.
The time away from work should be expanded to 10 days if there are no tests taken by the worker, according to the guidance.
Workers that have "severe to critical" illness should quarantine for 20 days since the symptoms began, and not return to work until 24 hours after their last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and the symptoms exhibited have passed.
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