Dec 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Top health officials defend CDC's change to COVID isolation period

Top health officials in the Biden administration are pushing back against criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's move to cut the recommended isolation time for people who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days if they're asymptomatic.

Driving the news: "This is one of those situations ... that we often say, you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Tuesday.

  • "We know that when you are infected early on in infection, for the first several days, you have more of a likelihood to have a high level of virus and to be capable of spreading it," Fauci said.

The big picture: Fauci's remarks come days after the CDC slashed its recommended isolation time for people who test positive, drawing criticism from some medical experts who say the guidelines are confusing and will potentially cause more spread of the disease.

  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday also maintained the policy change, saying "it really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate" in an interview with CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

What they're saying: "We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all of this pandemic ... and so we really want to make sure that we have guidance, in this moment when we knew we were going to have a lot of disease, that could be adhered to," Walensky said.

  • Walensky also responded to questions over why the CDC did not recommend a negative rapid test after isolation, saying: "We actually don't know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you're transmissible during the end of disease. The FDA has not authorized them for that use."

The bottom line: "Right now, because of the concern that there are so many people now and likely in the next few weeks who will be infected by this wave of infections ... many of whom will be without symptoms or only mildly symptomatic, that that might have a negative impact on our ability to maintain the structure of society," Fauci said.

Go deeper: CDC cuts COVID isolation period recommendation in half

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