The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its Covid-19 community and school guidance on Thursday, loosening several key recommendations.
People who are exposed to the virus no longer need to quarantine at home, regardless of their vaccination status, although they should wear a mask for 10 days and get tested for the virus on day 5, according to the new guidelines. Routine surveillance testing of people without symptoms is no longer recommended in most settings.
People who test positive for the virus should still isolate at home for at least five days, and the guidelines around masking — which recommend that people wear masks indoors in places where community Covid-19 levels are high — have not changed.
The changes signal a new phase of the pandemic, officials and experts said.
“We know that Covid-19 is here to stay,” Greta Massetti, a C.D.C. epidemiologist, said at a news briefing on Thursday. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools that we have available to protect people from severe illness and death, have put us in a different place.”
The new guidelines are geared toward protecting people from severe illness, Dr. Massetti added. They emphasize the importance of vaccination and other measures, including antiviral treatments and ventilation.
Many health experts praised the new guidelines as representing a pragmatic approach to living with the virus in the longer term. “I think this a welcome change,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It actually shows how far we’ve come.”
But the pandemic was not over, they noted, and more stringent measures may be needed in the event of new variants or future surges.
With the fast-spreading BA.5 version of Omicron on the march, the United States is recording more than 100,000 cases and nearly 500 deaths a day, on average.
And while nearly all Americans are now eligible to be vaccinated, many are not up-to-date on their shots. Just 30 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds and 60 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have received their primary vaccine series nationwide. Among adults 65 and older, who are at highest risk of severe disease, 65 percent have received a booster.
Critical therapeutics, like antiviral treatments, remain difficult for many to access.
“Obviously, we have to do more work to make sure that more people avail themselves of the protection that those tools have to offer and that more people can access those tools,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health. “I do think there’s been an overall dial-back in the ground game that’s needed to get people vaccinated.”