Infectious diseases expert weighs in on confusion over CDC quarantine guidance

At-home COVID-19 rapid test.
At-home COVID-19 rapid test.(WECT)
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 7:41 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Amid surging COVID-19 cases confusion and controversy persist over the CDC’s revised quarantine guidelines that say after five days some people can end isolation and do not have to have a negative COVID test result.

Dr. Julio Figueroa is LSU Health New Orleans infectious diseases chief.

“First of all, you have to be asymptomatic before you get back that five days, so you have, that’s one of the things that’s been a little bit confused in this whole discussion is that they’re talking about asymptomatic individuals,” said Figueroa.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser said earlier in the week that the CDC was considering adding testing to its get-out-of-quarantine faster guidance.

“I, myself feel that that’s a reasonable thing to do. I believe that the CDC soon will be coming out with more clarification of that,” said Fauci.

Figueroa correctly predicted that the CDC would recommend a less sensitive test.

“They’re going to probably recommend the antigen test and the reason for that, is that there are better data to say that the antigen test positivity correlates a little bit better with infectivity than the PCR,” said Figueroa. “The PCR test we’ve known for, for most of the pandemic that it’s always positive for a while after people are no longer infectious, so the PCR test itself is too sensitive to meet that parameter.”

Masking is required for an additional five days, post-quarantine according to the CDC’s guidelines.

“They’re all supposed to be wearing really good, tight-fitting masks as I am right now, so that it’s not a license to be able to go out and do whatever you want without a mask,” said Figueroa who had on an N-95 mask.

The Omicron variant has cases of COVID infection exploding in Louisiana and around the country.

Dr. Mark Kline is Physician-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

“We’ve never seen anything like it, Omicron is just so contagious and so the numbers in the community and the amount of community transmission that’s occurring is mind-boggling. Now, a lot of people think that Omicron is milder than Delta. I hope they’re right,” said Kline.

Figueroa responded to a question about whether there is enough data to conclude that those who contract the Omicron variant of the virus will experience only mild effects.

“I can tell you that we are definitely seeing people who are getting sick and sick enough to get in the hospital and sick enough to be put on oxygen and even be put on the ventilator, okay. It’s not as commonly seen as we did with the Delta wave,” said Figueroa.

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