The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing whether it should include a negative COVID-19 test as part of its new isolation guidelines for asymptomatic patients, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday. And President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser made it sound like the decision could be imminent. If there is a change, it would come after the CDC received lots of criticism when it shortened its isolation recommendations for people who test positive for COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms from 10 days to five. Many experts said the change lacked a key component because it didn’t require a negative COVID test in order to leave isolation.
“You’re right there has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration. The CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that,” Fauci said on ABC’s This Week after anchor George Stephanopoulos asked why a test wasn’t required to leave quarantine. “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.”
If the CDC does indeed change the guidelines it would come after a period in which its officials defended the lack of testing requirement. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky had said the agency decided against requiring a test after five days in part because they are often inaccurate at that point of the infection and tests can be positive when someone isn’t, in fact, infectious. The agency still, however, said the best practice would be for people to get tested on Day 5 of quarantine.
Fauci said that there has been an “unprecedented” acceleration of COVID-19 cases but he suggested that number may soon not be all that important. “As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases,” Fauci said. He cautioned, however, that even as evidence accumulates that the omicron variant leads to less serious infection, “when you have multi-multi-multi-fold more people getting infected, the net amount is you’re still going to get a lot of people that are going to be needing hospitalization.”