CDC head: Agency sought balanced guidance

Federal health officials said the recommendation to shorten the isolation period for people with asymptomatic COVID-19 was aimed at striking a balance between making sure essential services can continue to function and how long people can reasonably be expected to stay isolated.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday the agency was concerned that people are not isolating at all. As infections due to the omicron variant surge, she said the goal was to have a policy that people would follow.

The new guidelines, which cut the 10-day period to five days for people who are asymptomatic, “really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” Walensky said during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

“We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic. Some science has demonstrated less than a third of people are isolating when they need to. And so we really want to make sure that we had guidance in this moment where we were going to have a lot of disease that could be adhered to, that people were willing to adhere to,” Walensky added.

Business calculations: The sheer number of expected infections could hobble businesses if large swaths of employees miss work, and Walensky said many people would not even want to isolate if they tested positive but experienced mild symptoms.

Given what is known about omicron, she said the agency felt a change was needed.

“Our guidance was conservative before. It had said 10 days of isolation. But in the context of the fact that we were going to have so many more cases, many of those would be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, people would feel well enough to be at work. They would not necessarily tolerate being home and they may not comply with being home,” Walensky said.