Coronavirus: COVID-19 patients only need to self-isolate for 10 days, says CDC
After testing positive for coronavirus in Vietnam, Steven Tran, 29, was sent to a hospital facility to self-isolate for two weeks as per government measures.
Tran, who has no pre-existing conditions, had contracted a mild case of COVID-19. He experienced a slight fever for one day, coughing, and loss of taste and smell for one week.
“For two weeks I stayed in a room with four to five other people who tested positive. I mostly watched Netflix, and there was a patio for us to go out on,” said Tran in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
After the mandated two weeks, he was released from the hospital on April 7 following three consecutive negative tests.
But Tran’s 14-day isolation period may not be necessary, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is now recommending that isolation for COVID-19 patients can “generally be discontinued 10 days after symptoms onset” without a negative test.
The CDC cited new research that found mild to moderate COVID-19 patients generally do not pose a risk of infecting others 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and therefore do not need to be re-tested after this period to be safely released.
“Available data indicate that persons with mild to moderate COVID-19 remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset,” the CDC said in a July 22 update on its website.
The CDC recommendation of 10 days intends to avoid isolating a person shedding no infectious virus. It does not apply to people suffering from severe COVID-19 illness, who may continue to be infectious for up to 20 days after symptoms onset.
Harvard, Yale epidemiologists weigh in
An important distinction is that the CDC guidelines are not for quarantining following a coronavirus exposure, according to Harvard University epidemiologist Dr. Marc Lipsitch, but only for people have been confirmed as having positive cases.
The CDC still recommends a two-week quarantine for those who have been exposed to the virus.
“You should stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19,” the CDC states on its website.
Instead, the new guidance is for confirmed coronavirus patients “to end self-isolation at 10 days from symptoms onset even though viral RNA may be present for much longer,” said Dr. Lipsitch in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
For COVID-19 patients who experience no symptoms, the CDC advises ending isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive PCR test.
For all coronavirus cases, immediate self-isolation is crucial as “people are most infectious at the start of their SARS-CoV-2 infection and before appearance of symptoms,” according to Yale University professor of epidemiology Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood.
“Research studies have shown that virus production is strongest at the start of the infection and before the immune system responds to destroy the virus and produces symptoms,” Khoshnood said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.