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Local Experts Diverge Over CDC’s Shortened Isolation Recommendation

A woman wearing a hat, sunglasses and a mask stands behind people at a distance.
A woman wears a protective mask on March 19, 2020, in Oakland, California.
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There's a lot of debate over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changing its recommended COVID-19 isolation period.

The update calls for people to isolate for five days instead of 10. It also directs them to wear a mask around others for an extra five days.

That’s for people who test positive but have no symptoms after five days of isolation. While the CDC's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says the update ensures “people can safely continue their daily lives,” local experts are divided on the directive.

UCLA infectious disease expert Dr. Robert Kim-Farley said isolating for five days will cover the period when many people are most infectious.

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“Continuing to wear a mask for the next five days afterwards provides good public health protection, with a balance to what we need to do to keep our society functioning,” he said.

But Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, argues there's no evidence to support cutting the isolation period. He worries it will result in more spread and is concerned the update doesn't acknowledge how people can clear the virus at different times.

“At least 10 days captured most people past when they would have infectious potential,” he said.

Topol said people should at least be required to get tested after the five-day period before ending isolation.

The guidance does say an infected person who has symptoms after five days should continue to isolate.

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