U.S.|The C.D.C. shortened isolation periods as Omicron cases soared.
As daily coronavirus cases in the United States soared to near record levels, federal health officials on Monday shortened by half the recommended isolation period for many infected Americans, hoping to minimize rising disruptions to the economy and everyday life.
Virus-related staff shortages have upended holiday travel, leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights, and now threaten industries as diverse as health care, restaurants and retail. Yet health experts warn the country is only in the early stages of a fast-moving surge.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
The agency had previously recommended that infected patients isolate for 10 days from when they were tested for the virus. But on Monday it slashed that period to five days for those without symptoms, or those without fevers whose other symptoms were resolving.
Americans leaving isolation should wear masks around others for an additional five days after their isolation periods have ended, the officials said.
The new recommendations “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses,” Dr. Walensky said. “These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”
Still, the C.D.C. did not recommend that Americans take rapid tests before ending isolation periods, a step that scientists said would offer considerably more reassurance that people were not continuing to spread the virus.
Health officials also said that uninfected Americans who had received booster shots did not need to quarantine after exposure to the virus. Last week, the C.D.C. reduced, in some circumstances, the number of days it recommended that health care workers who test positive must isolate.
The updated guidance comes amid a rising tide of infections that threatens to swamp the U.S. health care system, particularly given that tens of millions remain unvaccinated. New York, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Puerto Rico have reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period.
On Sunday, the seven-day national average of new daily cases climbed past 214,000, an 83 percent jump over the past 14 days. Deaths also increased by 3 percent during that time, to a seven-day average of 1,328, according to a New York Times database.
Hospitalizations are up, too, although not as much as cases. More than 71,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, 8 percent higher than two weeks ago but still well below previous peaks.