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March 2022 – A new CDC MMWR found that when the Omicron variant was widely circulating, rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization increased for all adults, regardless of vaccination status.

However, hospitalization rates among people who were unvaccinated were 12 times higher than among those who had received a COVID-19 primary series and a booster or additional dose. Among non-Hispanic Black adults in this study, the rate of hospitalization was 3.8 times as high as the rate among non-Hispanic White adults during the peak of Omicron.

Everyone eligible should stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster doses, to reduce their risk for severe COVID-19. Learn more: bit.ly/MMWR7112e2.

CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population

For Immediate Release: Monday, December 27, 2021

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

If You test positive:

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

  • Stay home for 5 days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

If You have been exposed to Covid-19:

If you:

Have been boosted
OR
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
OR
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.


Omicron

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), B.1.1.529 (Omicron) (1), was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on November 24, 2021. Omicron has numerous mutations with potential to increase transmissibility, confer resistance to therapeutics, or partially escape infection- or vaccine-induced immunity (2). On November 26, WHO designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern (3), as did the U.S. SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG)* on November 30. On December 1, the first case of COVID-19 attributed to the Omicron variant was reported in the United States. As of December 8, a total of 22 states had identified at least one Omicron variant case, including some that indicate community transmission. Among 43 cases with initial follow-up, one hospitalization and no deaths were reported. This report summarizes U.S. surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 variants, characteristics of the initial persons investigated with COVID-19 attributed to the Omicron variant and public health measures implemented to slow the spread of Omicron in the United States. Implementation of concurrent prevention strategies, including vaccination, masking, increasing ventilation, testing, quarantine, and isolation, are recommended to slow transmission of SARS-CoV-2, including variants such as Omicron, and to protect against severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Measures to Slow Domestic Spread of the Omicron Variant

CDC recommends prioritizing case investigation and contact tracing††† for confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the Omicron variant. This prioritization should be balanced with maintaining case investigation and contact tracing for outbreaks of confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in high-risk congregate settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters) and for persons at increased risk for severe COVID-19–related health outcomes. Timely case investigation and contact tracing can help ensure compliance with isolation and quarantine guidance§§§ and link persons with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results and their close contacts to testing and supportive services.

What We Know about Omicron

Infection and Spread

  • How easily does Omicron spread? The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
  • Will Omicron cause more severe illness? More data are needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.
  • Will vaccines work against Omicron? Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
  • Will treatments work against Omicron? Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.

We have the Tools to Fight Omicron

Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Scientists are currently investigating Omicron, including how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization, and death. CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Masks offer protection against all variants. CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status. CDC provides advice about masks for people who want to learn more about what type of mask is right for them depending on their circumstances.

Tests can tell you if you are currently infected with COVID-19. Two types of tests are used to test for current infection: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. NAAT and antigen tests can only tell you if you have a current infection. Individuals can use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool to help determine what kind of test to seek. Additional tests would be needed to determine if your infection was caused by Omicron. Visit your state, tribal, local, or territorial health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.

Self-tests can be used at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. If your self-test has a positive result, stay home or isolate for 10 days, wear a mask if you have contact with others, and call your healthcare provider. If you have any questions about your self-test result, call your healthcare provider or public health department.

Until we know more about the risk of Omicron, it is important to use all tools available to protect yourself and others.

Some COVID-19 Vaccine Recipients Can Get Booster Shots

  • People 65 years and older, 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions, or 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot.
  • People 18 years and older should receive a booster shot at least 2 months after receiving their Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • IF YOU RECEIVED
    Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna


    You are eligible for a booster if you are:

    When to get a booster:
    At least 6 months after your second shot

    Which booster should you get?
    Any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States

  • IF YOU RECEIVED
    Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen


    You are eligible for a booster if you are:
    18 years or older

    When to get a booster:
    At least 2 months after your second shot

    Which booster should you get?
    Any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States

  • Choosing Your COVID-19 Booster Shot

    You may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.

  • IF YOU RECEIVED

    Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

    Older adults age 65 years and older

    People ages 65 years and older should get a booster shot. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and can also increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions.

    Long-term care setting residents ages 18 years and older

    Residents ages 18 years and older of long-term care settings should get a booster shot. Because residents in long-term care settings live closely together in group settings and are often older adults with underlying medical conditions, they are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.

    People with underlying medical conditions ages 50–64 years

    People ages 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should get a booster shot. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and can also increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions.

    People with underlying medical conditions ages 18–49 years

    People ages 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may get a booster shot based on their individual risks and benefits. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.

    People who work or live in high-risk settings ages 18–64 years

    People ages 18–64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot based on their individual risks and benefits. Adults who work or reside in certain settings (e.g., health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters) may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside. That risk can vary across settings and based on how much COVID-19 is spreading in a community. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.

    Examples of workers who may get COVID-19 booster shots: [ 1 ]

    • First responders (e.g., healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
    • Education staff (e.g., teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
    • Food and agriculture workers
    • Manufacturing workers
    • Corrections workers
    • U.S. Postal Service workers
    • Public transit workers
    • Grocery store workers

    List could be updated in the future.

    IF YOU RECEIVED

    J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

    People ages 18 years and older who received a J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 months ago should get a booster shot. The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine has lower vaccine effectiveness over time compared to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).

    Your Vaccination Card and Booster Shots

    At your first vaccination appointment, you should have received a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it. Bring this vaccination card to your booster shot vaccination appointment.

    If you did not receive a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card at your first appointment, contact the vaccination site where you got your first shot or your state health department to find out how you can get a card.