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CDC Ends COVID-19 Quarantine Requirement

A national Public Health Emergency is still in effect through October

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will no longer require people to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The agency’s announcement comes over two years after the onset of the global pandemic which led to widespread lockdowns and international travel restrictions. 

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, Ph.D., who is a senior epidemiologist at the CDC who wrote the guidelines

“We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation,” she said.

While she warned that the pandemic “is not over,” Massaetti acknowledged in the press release that ending the quarantine regulations “helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”

The agency now recommends Americans who are exposed to COVID-19 wear a mask for 10-days and get tested five days after exposure regardless of vaccination status.

Anyone who tests positive for the virus is still encouraged to isolate for five full days and wear a mask for 10 days. The CDC also recommends people who have contracted the virus only leave isolation once they have tested negative twice within 48 hours. 

The announcement comes roughly one month after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra extended the COVID-19 public health emergency through Oct. 13.

The United States has been under a public health emergency since January of 2020.

“The Public Health Emergency declaration continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond to the highly transmissible COVID-19 subvariants that are currently circulating around the country,” a Biden administration official told CNN on July 15. “The PHE provides essential capabilities and flexibilities to hospitals to better care for patients, particularly if we were to see a significant increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks.”

COVID-19 quarantine regulations have steadily been pulled back in recent months as the virus becomes endemic.

In April, a court order required the CDC to end mask mandates on public transportation and transportation hubs, including airports. 

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Florida said the mask requirement for travelers and transit users was “unlawful” and beyond the legal authority of the CDC. 

Airlines, including American, United, Delta, American and Alaska, immediately made masks optional following the ruling.

Additionally, as of June 12, airline passengers bound for the U.S. from a foreign country are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their flight.

The CDC’s latest announcement comes as many schools reopen for the 2022-2023 school year. Under the latest guidelines, students will no longer need to follow test-to-stay protocols if they come into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

“Because we’re no longer recommending quarantine, we’re no longer including a section on test-to-stay because the practice of handling exposures would involve masking rather than a quarantine, and test-to-stay was an alternative to quarantine,” said Massetti.

Schools are now being advised to “consider flexible, non-punitive policies and practices” in order to support people who opt to wear masks.

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