President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Monday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) decision to cut its recommended isolation time for people infected with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic will allow people to get back to work more quickly.
The decision comes amid a huge uptick in cases that is only expected to get larger because of the highly contagious omicron variant.
“The reason is that with the sheer volume of new cases that we are having and that we expect to continue with omicron, one of the things we want to be careful of is we don’t have so many people out,” Fauci told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Monday.
The new variant does not appear to lead to COVID-19 cases as severe as some previous variants, though tests are continuing. The federal government and public health experts are recommending booster shots in addition to vaccinations in order to combat omicron.
“If you are asymptotic and you are infected, we want to get people back to the jobs, especially those with essential jobs,” Fauci added.
The CDC reduced the isolation time from 10 to five days, as long as the infected person is asymptomatic and wears a mask around other people at all times for another five days.
Fauci said the decision to reduce the isolation time, which applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status, was a good choice.
“They can get back to the workplace, doing things that are important to keep society running smoothly,” Fauci said.
When asked if it’s tough for Americans to keep track of the changes out of the CDC, Fauci noted that with many omicron cases, people don’t have symptoms or have minimal symptoms.
“It just makes sense, keeping them out for five days,” he said. “I don’t think it’s confusing, I think it’s a rather crisp recommendation.”
Amid the rise in omicron cases, other White House officials have been quick to point out that hospitalizations haven’t been as high as previously during the pandemic. When asked about the new metric that focuses more on hospitalizations rather than cases, Fauci said the administration will still count cases, but that many of those infections are mild.
“It’s important to focus on how well we’re doing about keep people well,” he said.
Fauci also acknowledged the issue many Americans are facing trying to get tests after the scramble to get tested over Christmas.
“Quite frankly, we don’t have enough tests at this particular point in time,” he said.
When asked if it should be that way, Fauci responded, “No it shouldn’t, Jim, but it is, so we have to deal with it and we have to make it better.”