As COVID Rages, CDC Offers Reduced-Days Quarantine Options

The CDC says that people without symptoms can stop quarantining on day 10 without getting a COVID-19 test. People who are tested and test negative, can stop quarantining on day 7.

People with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) now have options regarding how long they have to self-quarantine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week updated its quarantine guideline. Before, the guideline said that people exposed to COVID-19 or who have COVID-19 should be quarantine for 14 days. In the updated guideline, the agency says that people without symptoms can stop quarantining on day 10 without getting a COVID test. People who are tested and test negative, can stop quarantining on day 7. The CDC said that a “14-day quarantine can impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as cause economic hardship that may reduce compliance. Implementing quarantines can also pose additional burdens on public health systems and communities, especially during periods when new infections, and consequently the number of contacts needing to quarantine, are rapidly rising.”

That’s certainly the case currently, as the second wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to break grim records. Yesterday, 100,067 people were hospitalized because of COVID, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and that’s a record. And according to Johns Hopkins University, there were 217,664 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. Also, 2879 people died from COVID-19 yesterday. Both of those are single day records.

The United States has reported over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases for the 31 straight days. And, according to Johns Hopkins, it was the third time since the pandemic began that the daily number of new COVID cases passed the 200,000 mark.

Since the pandemic began, there have been about 14.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. About 276,000 people in the United States have died from the disease. In the world, there have been over 65 million confirmed cases of COVID-19; with about 1.5 million people dying from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the quarantine guideline change, the CDC also said that “the prospect of quarantine may dissuade recently diagnosed persons from naming contacts and may dissuade contacts from responding to contact tracer outreach if they perceive the length of quarantine as onerous.”

The ray of hope in the midst of the current COVID-19 surge is the progress that’s being made to get a vaccine approved and widely distributed to the public. A vaccine developed by Pfizer could be ready for distribution by December 15. One developed by Moderna could be ready for distribution by December 22. The drug companies asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant emergency use authorization for their products.

And this week an advisory panel to the CDC said that healthcare workers and employees and residents at long-term care facilities should be first in line for that vaccine.

But will they be?

An article in STAT today says that a black market for the vaccine may already be forming. The rich and people with pull will try to jump to the head of the line. In the STAT article, bioethicist Author Caplan of New York University says that “there will absolutely be a black market. Anything that’s seen as lifesaving, life-preserving, and that’s in short supply, creates black markets.”

Essential workers will also probably be given early access to the vaccine. But who, exactly, is an essential worker? It’s supposed to be people who are needed to keep society functioning but cannot maintain social distance because of their job. As the STAT article indicates, it won’t be as simple as that. There is a lot of leeway there and you can bet that powerful lobbying organizations will argue that their members are essential. To cite one of the more publicized examples, Florida officials this year said that World Wrestling Entertainment counts as an industry with essential workers.