The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further explained the agency’s reason for shortening the recommended isolation time from 10 days to five days for those infected with the coronavirus who don’t exhibit symptoms.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN on Wednesday morning that transmission of the coronavirus is most likely within the first five days of testing positive for those without symptoms.
“So we want to make sure those first five days are spent in isolation. That’s when most of it occurs, and then there is of course this tail end, these last five days where we’re asking you to mask,” Walensky told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.
The CDC announced its new guidance on Monday after previously saying those infected with the newest coronavirus variant, omicron, isolate for 10 days. Early data suggests the latest variant is more mild but also more transmissible.
“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” Walensky told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”
In her Wednesday interview, Walensky also cited “behavioral science” for the decision, saying about a third of people who catch the virus don’t isolate for the full length of suggested time anyway. And as the AP pointed out, the CDC said isolation can be cut to even fewer days if an asymptomatic worker is in a field where there are severe staffing shortages.
“So from what you’re saying it sounds like this decision had just as much to do with business as it did with the science,” Collins asked Walensky.
“It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” Walensky responded.
In an interview Tuesday night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked Dr. Anthony Fauci if five days is enough time to isolate.
“Is there any science backing up the idea that after five days of asymptomatic isolation that you’re not still shedding the virus and contagious?” Hayes asked.
“Nothing is going to be 100%, and this is going to be one of those situations where you’re dealing with a very difficult situation, Chris, that we often say, you don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” Fauci said.
Fauci said he agreed with the CDC’s recommendation for those infected to mask up after their five days of isolation, adding that this is a better alternative than having a full, countrywide shutdown.
“When you balance [the new guidance] with the importance of trying to get people back functioning in society, because the alternative is something no one wants, and that’s to shut down completely, and we know that’s not going to be palatable to the American public.”