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CDC director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The CDC on Monday shortened its recommended isolation time for people who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days if they're asymptomatic.

The big picture: Industries across the country are strained with employees in quarantine as Omicron cases surge. The new guidance seeks to balance "what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses," per CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

  • The new guidance goes a step further than last week's recommendation for health care workers, which shortened their isolation from 10 days to seven days if they're asymptomatic.

Zoom in: The updated guidance advises that after the recommended isolation period, people should wear face masks for at least five days to "minimize the risk of infecting others."

  • The CDC also shortened the quarantine period for those exposed to the virus who are unvaccinated or haven't received a booster to five days, followed by "strict mask use."
  • Those have received a booster do not need to isolate after exposure but "should wear a mask for 10 days."

What they're saying: "The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society," Walensky said in a statement.

  • "Prevention is our best option," she added. "Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather."

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.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

1 hour ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.