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Local doctors say CDC guidance on quarantine is 'a little delayed'

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Posted at 5:15 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 20:30:08-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Doctors with Vanderbilt University Medical Center said the CDC could have made the decision to cut back quarantines much sooner, as much of the data was already available.

Dr. Todd Rice is an associate professor of medicine at VUMC. He said the recent recommendations from the CDC were based on data that showed transmission happened in the first couple of days after someone gets sick.

Recommendations during the past several months have been to quarantine for 10 days. Now the CDC has cut that time down to five days. They said those who were diagnosed should follow this up with five days of wearing a mask outside your home.

Dr. Rice said this new guidance makes sense that scientists know the omicron variant carries milder symptoms and only for a short time. This means people are recovering faster than they did with previous variants. Dr. Rice believes the CDC considered this among other things.

“I think they did it because they were worried about a lot of workers being out and being out for ten days and not having a workforce. I also think they had data behind it that said it’s probably safe to do this because after five days or so, your likelihood of spreading it is much lower,” Rice said.

As of last week, Dr. Rice said that the omicron variant accounted for an estimated 97% of COVID cases in Tennessee. He said they don’t test every sample, but it’s likely, “that whoever you know who has COVID has the omicron variant.”

Dr. Rice said the biggest difference between omicron and other variants has to do with symptoms. Omicron is milder for adults and may last half as long as symptoms with the delta variant. Symptoms range from a runny nose and congestion to nausea and diarrhea. Dr. Rice says people are learning to cope with milder symptoms, without the need for a trip to the hospital.

“We’re hoping that data from South Africa and the UK, that’s a little bit ahead of us in omicron, that the cases will end up being milder. That doesn’t mean that no one will need us. We’ll still see hospitalizations, but hopefully, we won’t see the crush that we saw during those other surges,” Rice said.

There’s been a slight rise in hospitalizations, according to Dr. Rice, but nothing compared to the delta surge of this summer. He said while the virus can spread even among the vaccinated, most of their patients never got the vaccine.

Dr. Rice still recommends vaccination as the best line of defense against severe COVID-19 symptoms.