Coronavirus Update: Following ‘pushback,’ Fauci says the CDC may require a negative COVID-19 test to end isolation

United States

Health officials are now discussing whether to require a negative COVID-19 test to end isolation periods for people with COVID-19 following widespread criticism of the new policy. 

“The CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part of that. And I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a week ago shortened isolation periods to five days, from 10 days. As part of the new policy, the CDC said: Once people have isolated for five days, they can then exit their quarantine if they are asymptomatic or have no symptoms (except for fevers). They should wear masks around others for five more days. 

The policy change was met with disapproval.

“It’s frankly reckless to proceed like this,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told the Associated Press. “Using a rapid test or some type of test to validate that the person isn’t infectious is vital.”

Medical professionals say that it makes sense to limit isolation to five days, given the shorter transmissibility period for people infected with the omicron variant and the general understanding that vaccinated people can clear the virus quicker. But much of the concern about the new policy has to do with the fact that some individuals may be infectious longer than five days. 

California said it still requires that people test out of isolation, while Michigan’s health department said it would keep the original 10-day isolation policy.

The CDC’s decision set off a wave of memes mocking the policy change.

COVID-19 news to know

• The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized a booster dose of BioNTech BNTX, -10.07% and Pfizer’s PFE, -4.06% COVID-19 shot for teens between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Teens in this age group can get a third dose of the vaccine five months after completing their primary series of shots. 

• Several studies conducted in animals or petri dishes indicate that omicron causes milder disease than previous variants of concern because it’s less likely to affect the lungs, according to the New York Times. Instead, this virus seems more likely to infect the nose, throat, and windpipe. 

• ICYMI: Novavax Inc. NVAX, -0.12% said Friday that it completed its data submission to the FDA for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The company is aiming to formally request emergency authorization of its protein-based COVID-19 shot within the month.

Here’s what the numbers say

The daily average of new cases spiked to 405,470 on Sunday, which is up 204% in two weeks and 61% above the Jan. 11 peak of 251,232, according to the New York Times tracker. The seven-day average of COVID-19-related hospitalizations climbed to 93,322 on Sunday, up 35% from two weeks ago, and the daily average for deaths was 1,254, down 3% from two weeks ago. 

More than 205 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. That’s 62% of the population. About 68.81 million, or 33.4% of the U.S. population, have received booster shots. The global tally for COVID-19 cases climbed to 290.2 million, as of Monday morning, and the death toll is now at 5.45 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. 

—Tomi Kilgore