CDC changes quarantine guidelines; record number of cases in US

December 28, 2021
Travelers use kiosks to check in for flights at Miami International Airport amid airline staffing shortages due to the rapid spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the United States.
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The U.S. on Monday reported more than half a million new COVID-19 cases – vastly worse than any other single day of the entire pandemic.

Monday’s tally of more than 500,000 new cases was higher than the nation’s previous record of more than 303,000, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. The apparent spike likely represents some cases backlogged over the Christmas holiday, but it also reflects part of the surge of the highly contagious omicron strain.

The world on Monday also reported its worst week ever for COVID-19 cases – 5.9 million – the USA TODAY analysis showed. The previous record of about 5.79 million cases was set in April.

The U.S. numbers come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the change was an effort to “make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

The recent surge in cases has spurred concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines and businesses across the country. Research has suggested omicron, while more infectious, causes milder illness.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact, many are going to be asymptomatic,” Walensky said.

Also in the news:

The CDC revised recent statistics on the number of new omicron cases in the U.S. For the week ending Dec. 18, 22.5% of new US cases were omicron – not 73% as stated earlier. For last week, omicron made up 58.6% of new U.S. cases; delta made up 41.1%.

 Apple is temporarily not allowing customers to shop inside its 16 retail stores in New York City as COVID-19 cases surge. Instead, customers can pick up orders from online. Within the past week, the tech company temporarily shut down stores in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach, Florida; two malls in Atlanta; Houston; and one each in Ohio, New Hampshire and Montreal.  

► The CDC is investigating Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas ship as it continues to sail with more than 50 cases of COVID-19 onboard

► About two dozen sailors on a U.S. Navy warship – roughly 25% of the crew – have tested positive for COVID-19, keeping the ship sidelined in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba Monday, according to U.S. defense officials.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 52.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 818,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 281.5 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 205 million Americans – 61.8% –  are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: A man died after a 15-day wait for a medical center bed. His family blames the COVID-19 surge.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

NYC schools to increase testing, cut quarantine for exposed students who test negative

New York City will increase COVID-19 testing in schools when students return from holidays break next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The city was ramping up testing and changing its quarantine policy to allow asymptomatic students who test negative for the coronavirus to stay in school. 

New York state will provide the city’s public schools with 2 million at-home test kits so that tests can be sent home with students if a classmate tests positive, de Blasio said, and students who test negative won’t have to quarantine.

“This is how we are going to look at schools from this point on, keep them safe and keep them open,” de Blasio said. “So long as they’re asymptomatic, and so long as they test negative, they keep coming to school.”

New York City’s public school system, the nation’s largest with about a million students, was one of the first in the nation to reopen to in-person learning after the pandemic hit in 2020, but frequent school or classroom closings because of COVID-19 cases proved disruptive.

In addition to distributing at-home tests, the city will double the number of random COVID-19 tests it conducts in schools and will include vaccinated as well as unvaccinated students, the mayor said.

Health officials reported about 22,000 new cases of the virus a day in the week that ended Sunday, up from 3,400 a day in the week that ended Dec. 12, due in large part to the emergence of the omicron variant.

– The Associated Press

Fauci: US should consider vaccine mandate for domestic air travel

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told MSNBC on Monday that the U.S. should consider a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel.

Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser on the pandemic response, said such a mandate might drive up the nation’s lagging vaccination rate as well as confer stronger protection on flights. Federal regulations require all those age 2 and older to wear a mask on flights.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci told the network. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

Texas runs out of monoclonal antibody treatment

The Texas state health department has run out of a key treatment to fight the omicron COVID-19 variant, which now makes up 90% of the virus cases in the state.

On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that its regional infusion centers in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and The Woodlands have run out of the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab.

That antibody has been shown to be effective against the omicron variant. Other monoclonal antibodies have not been shown to be effective against omicron. The state does not expect to receive another shipment of sotrovimab from the federal government until January. Read more here.

– Nicole Villalpando and Roberto Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman

CDC changes COVID-19 guidelines for isolation, quarantine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive. 

The new recommendations are for:

Isolation: For those who are infected with COVID-19, isolation starts the day a person tests positive. The CDC now recommends isolating for five days and going back to normal activities if a person is not showing any symptoms after that period. Previously, the isolation period was 10 days. 

Quarantine: For those who come in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.  The CDC is now recommending those who are vaccinated and received a booster shot can skip quarantining if they wear a face mask for at least 10 days. If a person is vaccinated and has not gotten a booster, or if they are partly vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, the CDC recommends a five-day quarantine, then wearing a mask in public for an additional five days. 

Previously, the CDC recommended unvaccinated individuals should quarantine for 10 days and those who were vaccinated could skip a quarantine.

Tested positive for COVID during the holidays? Here’s what to do.

Testing positive for COVID-19 starts a confusing, disruptive and at times frightening process – one that millions of Americans will likely go through in the coming week.

First, you need to isolate. That’s a more intense version of quarantining – it means cutting off contact with other people as much as possible so you reduce the chance of infecting them. This also means forgoing travel, not going to work and even limiting contact with people in your own household who aren’t infected.

The CDC says isolating is a necessary step whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, and whether you have symptoms or feel fine.

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms. And people who are unvaccinated or at high risk for severe disease should be extra-vigilant for symptoms that might require emergency care. Call your doctor for early treatment options.

How long should you isolate? How long will I be contagious? What if you are in close contact with someone who tested positive? Here’s what you should know about omicron and COVID-19 this holiday season.

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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