CDC shortens Its COVID-19 quarantine recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its guidelines for people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Now, instead of the standard 14-day quarantine it has been recommending, the CDC says that potential exposure warrants a quarantine of 10 or seven days, depending on one’s test results and symptoms, according to a NPR report.
If individuals do not develop symptoms, they need only quarantine for 10 days; if they test negative, that period can be reduced to just one week.
The revision marks a significant change from the CDC’s recommendations since the start of the pandemic earlier this year. While the agency says a 14-day quarantine remains the safest option, it acknowledged this length placed difficult demands on people.
“Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to take this critical public health action by reducing the economic hardship associated with a longer period, especially if they cannot work during that time,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for its COVID-19 response, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
“In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system and communities, especially when new infections are rapidly rising.”
Walke added that people should still watch closely for symptoms — such as fever, a cough or a loss of taste or smell — for a full 14 days after possible exposure.
John Brooks, chief medical officer for CDC’s COVID-19 response, said the agency based its revised guidelines “on extensive modeling, not just by CDC but by other agencies and partners.”
Biden wants mask mandates nationwide, but he can’t actually enforce them
“This is not about Democrat, Republican or Independent,” he said in an address in August, when more than 165,000 people had died from COVID-19. “This is about saving American lives, so let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide, starting immediately.”
Now, with more than 10.2 million confirmed cases and nearly 240,000 deaths in the U.S., Biden has unveiled a 13-member COVID-19 task force, and the Biden-Harris transition team launched a website outlining the new administration’s plan to tackle the pandemic.
That plan doesn’t include a nationwide mask mandate. Instead, it outlines a policy of working with state and local leaders to enact mandates.
What would mandates nationwide look like under Biden?
On the campaign trail, Biden said he wouldn’t – and couldn’t – issue a national mandate that everyone must wear a mask or face a fine.
“A national mandate is not possible because public health powers belong to the states, not the federal government,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. “The federal government couldn’t implement its own mask mandates, nor could it force the states to do it.”
Instead, Biden said in an ABC town hall last month that he’d appeal to governors and mayors to enact mask mandates. “You can go to every governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them, as president, and say ‘Ask people to wear the mask.’ Everybody knows (they work),” Biden said.
If that approach didn’t work, Biden said, he’d go to “every mayor” and “every council” to make the same request: “I’d go to every local official and say ‘mandate the mask.’ Say: ‘This is what you have to do when you’re out. Make sure you encourage it being done.'”
The website says Biden will call for Americans to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household, for governors to make that practice mandatory in their state, and for local authorities to also make it mandatory “to buttress their state orders.”
Biden said in a CNN town hall in September that he would issue an executive order requiring face masks on federal land and in federal buildings. He later said he would require them for interstate transportation, too.
If Biden did seek a nationwide mask mandate, it would be challenged “immediately,” said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law.
“The devil’s in the details,” he said. “We have to see what he’s actually trying to propose.”
Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and former Assistant Secretary for Health under Barack Obama, said the president-elect has already been making the case for face masks by leading by example.
“The fact that he has been regularly wearing a mask in public for months – having socially distanced events – just sends a huge and consistent message to the public,” said Koh, who is Harold Koh’s brother. “When the president acts and speaks, millions follow.”
Thirty-four states require people to wear face coverings in public, according to a list maintained by AARP. The list includes Utah, where a statewide mandate took effect Monday. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also have mask orders in place.