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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance for what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 might soon be easier to follow.

According to the Washington Post, the agency is considering dropping its current five-day isolation guidelines to be replaced with a 24-hour period, after which people with mild or improving symptoms would no longer need to stay home.

The proposed rule change discussed internally and on a call with state health officials would treat COVID-19 more like other common respiratory illnesses like the flu and RSV.

Yet COVID-19 remains much deadlier than those viruses, especially among at-risk populations. Despite advances in medical science, COVID-19 still hospitalizes people over the age of 65 ten times more often than influenza and is three to four times more likely to be fatal.

And long COVID, in which a debilitating set of symptoms persists even after the infection has cleared, remains a growing concern. The CDC data shows more than 20,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, and 774 people died from it the week of Feb. 3, 2024, the most current data available. That’s a decrease compared to last winter, although COVID-19 cases are actually higher than they were last year.

Should the new CDC guidance be approved, it would align with relaxed state-level rules elsewhere. California and Oregon no longer ask people who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate for a fixed amount of time; instead, they recommend people stay home until their symptoms improve and 24 hours have passed since they had a fever.


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