The United States and the United Kingdom have cut back on their recommended periods of self-isolation for asymptomatic people – and more countries may soon follow suit, as the highly transferable Omicron variant threatens to keep hospital staff and other key employees at home.
It comes amid record-breaking case numbers in both nations and mark the first time since Omicron emerged that major countries have deviated from the World Health Organization’s recommended 10-day isolation period.
But most countries still follow the 10-day marker, while others, such as Germany, require up to 14 days in isolation. The differences have led some to wonder exactly when and for how long people have been infected with the Omicron variant.
The measures were taken on the basis of concerns about the availability of key employees. “If you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to their jobs – especially those with important jobs – to keep our community running,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN this week.
But there is also some new data behind the changes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said their decision was “motivated by science showing that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of the disease, generally 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. “
“There is accumulating evidence, for vaccinated people, that if we are asymptomatic, it is very unlikely that we are contagious after about five to seven days,” Brown University associate dean of public health told Dr. Megan Ranney to CNN Tuesday.
New evidence that Omicron may be less serious than Delta has probably also played a role in the movements.
But the new guidelines have still given rise to some debate in the medical community, where experts have not yet fully understood Omicron.
“For the unvaccinated, the data do not really confirm that you become non-infectious after five days,” Ranney said. “I’m pretty worried about these new recommendations.”
She suggested having another guide for unvaccinated people until more data comes in – which could also have the “extra boost” of encouraging people to take the vaccine if they have not already done so.
Erin Bromage, a biology professor at UMass Dartmouth, added on CNN on Wednesday that there is “absolutely no data that I am aware of” to support the shift in guidance.
He added that people can still test positive for antigen testing up to seven or eight days after their first test, even if they have no symptoms. Unlike the UK, where there are several antigen tests, the US guide is not dependent on getting a negative result.
Omicron is nevertheless tearing through the workforce in several countries, and it is likely that more nations will shorten their isolation periods in the new year if the burden on hospitals grows. “With the sheer volume of new cases … one of the things we want to be careful about is that we do not have that many people out,” Fauci said.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Three pre-printed papers released last week revealed some early good news about the severity of the Omicron variant.
This research included preliminary data, and the articles have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But they add to the growing evidence that the new strain, although highly transmissible, may be less serious.
Nevertheless, a lower risk of hospitalization can easily be offset by the higher number of concomitant infections that Omicron causes in several countries. That’s why experts call for caution – and urge anyone who has not taken the vaccine or booster to do so before taking Omicron.
How to tell if it’s Covid, flu or cold
Do you have a sore throat, runny nose and muscle aches? It could be a common cold, a case of the flu – or Covid-19.
The diseases all have similar symptoms, which sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish what makes you breathless.
The important thing to remember is that a vaccine is like giving a ‘be on the lookout’ call to your immune system. So its capacity to identify, target and destroy viruses is so much higher every time we take another boost of the vaccine . ” said El-Sayed.
“It makes sense that the symptoms you would experience are milder if you have been vaccinated.” That does not mean, however, that infections should not be taken seriously, he added, especially when considering the risk of overwhelming health systems.
Many Latin American countries now have higher vaccination rates than Europe and North America
Many Latin American countries were hit by rising Covid-19 death rates early in the pandemic as coronavirus raged across the region.
Vaccine rollout was slow at first and it was a big problem to get the vaccines in hand. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean reported just under half of all Covid-19-related deaths worldwide.
Now the region accounts for about 10% of global Covid-19-related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. This is due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homemade vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
One reason for these successful vaccination campaigns can be traced back to history: Many countries in Latin America have long-standing and trusted national inoculation efforts against other diseases, such as polio.
Omicron triggers a Christmas nightmare
More than 2,000 trips were canceled on Wednesday after a wave of meandering trips during the holiday period. Of more than 2,800 canceled flights on Monday, about 1,000 were inside, in or out of the United States, according to FlightAware.
Nearly 11,000 flights are delayed. Globally, airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights on Christmas Eve, Christmas and the day after Christmas. In the United States, more than 1,200 flights were canceled, and more than 5,000 were delayed Sunday alone, as staff and crew report sick.
The cancellations come at the busiest time of the year for air travel. The U.S. Department of Transportation Security (TSA) said it screened millions of people every day of the holiday weekend, peaking at 2.19 million travelers on Thursday, December 23rd.
On Wednesday, more people passed through TSA checkpoints than the same day in 2019.
It’s time to upgrade your mask
As the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread, some experts say it’s time to reconsider your face mask options – especially if you’re still wearing the clothing variant.
“Fabric masks are little more than face decorations. There is no room for them in the light of Omicron,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Ideally, in crowded places, “you should wear a KN95 or N95 mask,” which can be as cheap as a few dollars each, Wen added.
By having a better fit and certain materials – such as polypropylene fibers – act as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers, these masks better prevent small particles from entering your nose or mouth and they need to be adjusted to your face to function properly.