ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – As if quarantine wasn’t confusing enough. After two years of being told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that people exposed to or sick with COVID-19 should quarantine for 10 days, the agency cut the time in half to five days leaving Americans wondering why?

It also left some Americans questioning the validity of the new quarantine rules. Why the new rules? The short answer is that the CDC adjusted its quarantine recommendations based on the current state of COVID and its effects on the U.S. Which are vastly different from two years ago.

“These updated recommendations come as the Omicron variant is now rapidly spreading throughout the United States causing very high case rates. The recommendations reflect the societal impact (e.g., critical infrastructure and staffing shortages) and the latest science on disease severity and when and for how long a person is maximally infectious,” the CDC said on its website.

CDC’s updated quarantine rules as of Jan. 20

For people unvaccinated or not up to date on boosters:

  • Stay home for five days beginning the first full day after encountering with infected person and wear a mask around household members
  • Avoid travel
  • Avoid being around someone considered high risk for developing serious illness from COVID
  • Get tested on day five even if no symptoms develop
  • Watch for symptoms until day 10 and continue to wear a mask around household members or out in public
  • If you get sick, get tested and begin isolation

For people who test positive or have symptoms:

  • Stay home for five days beginning the first full day after encountering with infected person and wear a mask around household members
  • Avoid travel
  • Avoid being around someone considered high risk for developing serious illness from COVID
  • Symptoms must be improving, and person must be fever-free for 24 hours without medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen before ending isolation
  • Severely sick should isolate for 10 days and check with their doctor before ending isolation
  • Until day 10 and continue to wear a mask around household members or out in public

Who doesn’t have to quarantine:

  • People up to date on COVID vaccinations and boosters
  • People who have had a confirmed positive case within 90 days
  • In both cases the CDC recommends getting tested five days after exposure, watching for symptoms, and wearing a mask around household members or out in public until day 10

The CDC said the omicron variant spreads faster, indicating the virus is most likely to spread in the early stages of the infection. They also took American’s mental health challenges because of the pandemic into consideration. There have been several studies detailing how isolation and COVID-related stress can affect a person’s ability to manage mental health. Furthermore, the CDC also cited health care staffing shortages and rising vaccination rates for the change in quarantine guidelines.