CDC draws criticism for shorter COVID quarantine, isolation as omicron bears down

Travelers wait in line to check-in at LaGuardia Airport in New York, on December 24, 2021. -On Christmas Eve, airlines, struggling with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, have canceled over 2,000 flights globally, 454 of which are domestic, into or out of the US.

Enlarge / Travelers wait in line to check-in at LaGuardia Airport in New York, on December 24, 2021. -On Christmas Eve, airlines, struggling with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, have canceled over 2,000 flights globally, 454 of which are domestic, into or out of the US. (credit: Getty | YUKI IWAMURA)

As the ultratransmissible omicron coronavirus variant bears down on the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday made a controversial decision to ease COVID-19 isolation and quarantine rules.

The country’s omicron surge has sent graphs of case counts vertical, and is already causing severe strain on health systems, shuttering businesses, and wreaking havoc on holiday travel and festivities. The US is currently averaging over 243,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, near the country’s all-time high of an average just over 250,000 per day set in early January 2021. Still, federal officials and public health experts say this is only the beginning of omicron’s towering wave, which may not peak until next month.

The CDC’s decision Monday is intended to ease the economic burden of the skyrocketing cases and follows an accumulation of data suggesting that infectiousness tends to wane two to three days after the onset of symptoms. However, some public health experts called the new rules “reckless” for not incorporating testing requirements.

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