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AMA: CDC Quarantine and Isolation Guidance Is Confusing, Counterproductive

Statement by Gerald E. Harmon, MD, President, American Medical Association


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“Nearly 2 years into this pandemic, with Omicron cases surging across the country, the American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for timely, accurate, clear guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing but are risking further spread of the virus.

Gerald E. Harmon, MD

Gerald E. Harmon, MD

“Living during a pandemic is challenging, and what we learn along the way—and data we collect—will necessarily change our course of action at times. According to the CDC’s own rationale for shortened isolation periods for the general public, an estimated 31% of people remain infectious 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test. With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3 [2022], tens of thousands—potentially hundreds of thousands of people—could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC’s new guidance on ending isolation after 5 days without a negative test. Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health-care system.

“A negative test should be required for ending isolation after one tests positive for COVID-19. Reemerging without knowing one’s status unnecessarily risks further transmission of the virus.

“Test availability remains a challenge in many parts of the country, including in hospitals, and we urge the administration to pull all available levers to ramp up production and distribution of tests. But a dearth of tests at the moment does not justify omitting a testing requirement to exit a now-shortened isolation.” 


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