A federal health official said they "want to make absolutely sure" before rolling out new public health recommendations

By Benjamin VanHoose
November 25, 2020 01:24 PM
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Covid quarantine
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Top health officials are determining whether to shorten the recommended quarantine time for those who've been exposed to COVID-19  but test negative.

Dr. Brett Giroir, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press conference on Tuesday that officials are revisiting the length of time that is necessary to isolate. He said there is a "preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten that quarantine period," according to NPR.

"We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence, but we want to make absolutely sure. ... These kind of recommendations aren't willy-nilly," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends anyone who has come come in contact with a person who has the coronavirus to quarantine for 14 days. NPR cited a source who said the new guidelines could suggest seven to 10 days instead — for those who come back with a negative COVID test result.

In a statement to NBC News, a CDC spokesperson said they are "always reviewing its guidance and recommendations in the light of new understandings of the virus that causes COVID-19, and will announce such changes when appropriate."

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People who aren’t showing COVID-19 symptoms but have the virus are causing most of the spread, the CDC said in new guidance this week.

In most COVID-19 cases, people do not begin to show symptoms, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, until about six days after they are infected. During that time span, people are highly infectious and typically unaware that they have the virus, leading to unintended spread. People can also be asymptomatic —they can have the virus but never show symptoms.

Currently, the U.S. is struggling to contain a massive increase in COVID-19 cases. Nearly every state is seeing some of their highest daily case totals of the entire pandemic, and U.S. cases have increased by 2.5 million in November. As of Nov. 25, more than 12,670,300 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 259,800 people have died from the virus, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

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Health experts are suggesting people “modify” their holiday plans this year, since large gatherings, travel and shared meals are all potentially hazardous during the pandemic. Previous holidays, such as Memorial Day and July 4th, led to multiple COVID-19 spikes earlier this year.

Due to the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and case spikes across the country, the CDC also advises against indoor gatherings of large groups, and recommends six feet of distance and face coverings at all times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.