The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shortened the required quarantine time after being exposed to the virus from 14 days to as few as seven in the hope of increasing public compliance, just ahead of an anticipated high volume of holiday travel.

“If people do decide to travel, then CDC does recommend that travelers consider getting tested … one to three days before their trip, and again … after their trip at three to five days with reducing nonessential activities for a full seven days after travel, even if their test is negative,” said Dr. Cindy Friedman, the chief of The Travelers’ Health Branch at the CDC.

The agency still recommends that people quarantine for 14 days after being exposed to the virus or after they have arrived at their destination, but modified that guidance to allow people to remain isolated for 10 and as few as seven days. The quarantine period can end after seven days if the person has not experienced symptoms and can prove they have tested negative. After 10 days, the person can leave quarantine if they have not experienced any symptoms even without proof of a negative test.

While the modifications to the guidance come from a federal agency, states have the final say in whether or not to impose quarantine restrictions. Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 Incident manager, told reporters that the objective is to improve public compliance with the quarantine guidelines and to lift the strain that longer quarantine periods have on state public health officials.

“Many times the public health authorities are responsible for monitoring people during quarantine and they have to follow them to the end,” Walke said. “We believe that if we can reduce the burden, a little bit, accepting that it comes at a small cost, we may get a greater compliance overall with people … that will result in fewer infections.”

The latest update from the CDC comes just as the winter holiday season gets underway, and public health experts worrying that the high volume of travel could lead to another devastating surge in new cases and hospitalizations.

Top government infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned last week that holiday travel for Thanksgiving could lead to “another surge superposed upon the [current] surge.” The number of new daily cases is already growing. On Nov. 29, 135,239 new cases were reported in the United States. More than 176,700 new cases were reported on Dec. 1, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

To date, more than 13.7 million cases and over 271,000 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S.

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