DPH Adopts Updated Federal Guidance On Quarantine

The Baker administration on Tuesday night announced its adoption of new federal guidance governing isolation and quarantine periods for people infected with COVID-19 or exposed to the virus.

“The Department of Public Health is adopting updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding isolation and quarantine periods for the general population, effective immediately,” said Department of Public Health spokesperson Katheleen Conti. “For the general public, this updated guidance shortens the recommended time for isolation and quarantine from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others.”

The CDC issued its updated guidance on Monday, saying the change was “motivated by science” demonstrating that the majority of COVID-19 transmission “occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Monday. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

State public health officials said they are reviewing updated CDC guidance regarding isolation and quarantine for health care workers and “will have more to share soon.”

The adoption of the updated guidance comes as the state’s testing infrastructure is overwhelmed, with people waiting in long lines, stores running out of rapid tests, and the cost of tests creating additional obstacles. Infections are soaring and the numbers largely do not reflect cases confirmed through rapid tests.

With K-12 students on holiday break, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley has not announced yet whether he will extend the state’s school mask mandate, which is scheduled to end on Jan. 15.

“The medical community’s asked for some additional time so that we have better facts on the ground. They’re learning a lot very quickly about the omicron variant. We’ll wait and see, and see what the situation looks like in early January for a decision,” Riley said on Dec. 17.

Several schools have met state vaccination thresholds and dropped their mask mandates, but state public health officials have also issued a general advisory recommending that people wear masks in indoor public spaces.

– Michael P. Norton/SHNS