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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sought to clarify its COVID isolation guidance Tuesday, it managed to further muddy the waters.

The big picture: The CDC's guidance says people who have tested positive, or those who suspect they have COVID due to symptoms, should isolate for at least five days.

  • The agency faced criticism last week for not recommending a negative COVID test as a condition to end isolation.
  • The CDC still doesn't say people need to test negative to leave their isolation, but its newly updated guidance now says that anyone ending isolation who "has access to a test" and "wants to test" can do so.
  • If they test positive, they should isolate for another five days, the CDC says. But if they are symptom free after five days and haven't tested, they can also go out in the world again. Either way, they should keep wearing a mask for five more days. And they really shouldn’t travel, but still can if they wear a mask and in no circumstance is it necessary to test negative.
  • Got it?

What they're saying: "The newly updated @CDCgov isolation guidance adds to the confusional state," tweeted Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research.

  • "I'm struggling to make heads or tails of it," Megan Ranney, academic dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, told Axios.
  • "It's basically like 'get out of jail free at five days unless you happen to run into a rapid test in which case ....' It feels like a Rube Goldbergian contraption designed to confuse us all."

Flashback: It's not the first instance of problematic COVID messaging.

  • For instance, while data showed immunity was waning from COVID vaccines, it took months for the FDA and CDC to authorize them for the general public, Axios' Caitlin Owens wrote.
  • Last spring, the CDC said the vaccinated could shed their masks — only to reverse course 75 days later to say vaccinated people in hot spots should wear masks in indoor, public settings.

The other side: The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

  • It said online it did not require tests at the end of isolation because "a negative antigen test does not necessarily indicate the absence of transmissible virus." The agency recommends wearing a "well-fitting mask," with or without a test, when leaving isolation.
  • Experts acknowledge that it can be tricky to communicate with the public as science changes. They said they also recognize access to testing has also been an issue in recent weeks.

The bottom line: The advice could and should be delivered in simpler and clearer terms, experts said.

  • "I'd recommend a rapid antigen test and if it's still positive, stay home longer," Ranney said. "And if you're symptomatic, you have to stay home until you get better."

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Minneapolis and St. Paul to require vaccine or test for indoor dining

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

New vaccine-or-test requirements for indoor dining and drinking in Minneapolis and St. Paul take effect Wednesday.

The big picture: A growing number of major cities, including Boston, Chicago and New York, have instituted similar requirements in an effort to protect public health.

Yes, but: Questions about enforcement, logistics and effectiveness of the temporary measures here remain.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

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