The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by masking around others. This news comes as new information is learned about the Omicron variant.
It also comes at a time when local active cases have seen a spike over the last month. The Phelps-Maries County Health Department reported a spike in active COVID-19 cases throughout December, with active cases remaining over 200 since December began, hitting a high of 314 reported on December 9.
“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to five days, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask when around others,” the health department said in a statement last week.
“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the one to two days prior to onset of symptoms and two to three days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for five days to minimize the risk of affecting others,” the department said.
The CDC also updated its recommendation for quarantine periods as well. “Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than two months after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days,” the department said.
“Alternatively, if quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure,” it reported.
The department added, anyone exposed should seek a test at day five after exposure and should immediately quarantine until a negative test to help stop the spread to others.
“Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for five days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious,” the department reported.
The department also reported data from South Africa and the United Kingdom have demonstrated vaccine effectiveness against infections after two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35 percent, but also has shown a booster dose can raise the effectiveness to 75 percent.
“COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone five and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities,” the statement said.
A full list of updated COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines can be found on the Phelps-Maries County Facebook page.
Active cases continue to remain high in Phelps County, currently at 291 as of December 29. The health department reported there have been 6,905 positive PCR tests and 1,636 antigen tests performed by the health department and 8,049 have been released from isolation. There have been 201 deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported in the county.
The number of county residents receiving vaccinations is now at 47.9 percent of the total population having initiated vaccinations and 41.6 percent having completed the vaccination process.
Maries County has held steady in its cases in recent weeks, despite a small climb in cases in December. There are currently 28 active cases being reported. There have been 1,156 positive PCR tests and 216 positive antigen tests, with 24 deaths related to COVID-19 being reported. Vaccinations in Maries County are currently 40.7 percent of the total population having initiated the vaccination process and 36.5 percent having completed the process.
The Department of Health and Senior Services and the Phelps-Maries County Health Department are encouraging all unvaccinated in the community to get vaccinated or to take personal steps in helping keep the spread of the virus low. There is no cost for a COVID-19 vaccine, even for those uninsured. Fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to miss work, school, or social functions due to illness and fully vaccinated individuals are not asked to quarantine whenever exposed to COVID-19 and not symptomatic.
The Phelps-Maries County Health Department offers Pfizer for those 12 years and older, Pfizer to those ages five through 11, and Johnson and Johnson for those 18 and older. Parents or legal guardians must be present and sign a consent form for anyone under 18 years old.
Anyone with symptoms is strongly encouraged to self-quarantine and get a rapid test. Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and meet the following criteria are encouraged to seek PCR testing instead of rapid testing:
• Fully vaccinated against COVID-19
• Have had a prior confirmed or probable case of COVID-19
• Have travelled internationally
• Have been in direct contact with anyone that has travelled internationally.
Free PCR testing is available for individuals three and older with no insurance at Walgreens and CVS. PCR results typically only take a day or two and those who are getting tested are asked to isolate at home while awaiting test results.
Business owners who have several employees interested in getting a vaccine, the health department may be able to come to the business to save time and resources. COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the area and can be found at www.MOStopsCovid.com or www.VaccineFinder.com.
The health department urges those not vaccinated to get the vaccine, wear a mask around others if not fully vaccinated, wash your hands often, maintain distance from others, avoid large gatherings and stay home if you are sick.
Vaccination sites can also be found on the Phelps-Maries County Health Department Facebook page for a full list of where to get vaccinated locally.