Mar 1, 2024 - Health

CDC relaxes COVID-19 isolation recommendations

A sign for coronavirus testing in New York City in September 2023.

A sign for coronavirus testing in New York City in September 2023. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Americans who contract COVID-19 will no longer have to stay home for five days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday eased its isolation guidance for the virus.

Why it matters: The new guidance is similar to the agency's recommendation for the flu: People who test positive for the virus who have been free of fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication may leave home.

  • It's the first time the CDC has shifted its isolation guidance since 2021 when it reduced its recommendation from 10 days to five days.
  • The new recommendation will not apply to health workers or more vulnerable populations.

Driving the news: The guidance change comes as some states, including California and Oregon, have started relaxing their COVID-19 isolation guidelines despite the CDC's recommendations.

  • Confirmed coronavirus cases have also fallen over the past few weeks after peaking over the holidays along with other respiratory illnesses like the flu and RSV, according to CDC data.

The big picture: Despite cases falling, water surveillance data published by the CDC suggests circulation of the virus remains elevated.

  • Hundreds of people are still dying from COVID-19 infections and around 20,000 people are hospitalized because of the virus every week, according to CDC data.
  • Those numbers are vastly lower than those seen around the holidays in 2021 and 2022, but they are much higher compared to CDC data on hospitalizations and deaths from flu.

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