Saturday, December 19, 2020

Shorter quarantines could actually help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks

Two-week quarantines strain mental health and finances. New research shows weeklong restrictions could ease this burden and improve contact tracing.

A medic asks photographer Justin Jin to read out his temperature through his hotel door during a twice-daily check as part of his 14-day quarantine after arriving in Shanghai, China, from Belgium. The picture was taken through the door’s peephole. Jin made the arduous journey to see his father, who just had surgery.

By Viviane Callier
Photographs by Justin Jin
National Geographic

This push for shorter quarantines is supported by academic reports that show that people with coronavirus don’t appear to be contagious after nine or 10 days. In addition, new research shows that shorter quarantines combined with smarter testing strategies can actually do more than 14-day quarantines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

These new studies explain why, on December 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced two new options for quarantining. The CDC still recommends 14 days when possible, but if a person still has no symptoms and tests negative on day five or later after potential exposure, they can end their self-imposed quarantine after a week. Alternatively, if a person lacks access to testing, they can exit quarantine after 10 symptom-free days.

The main reason that people fail to quarantine for the recommended duration is lost wages, especially in the United States, where many workers do not have sick leave, explains Maimuna Majumder, a computational epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School. With a few exceptions (such as the state of Vermont), governments in Europe and North America have not done enough to support those who are not able to quarantine because they would incur financial loss or they live in crowded housing, adds Müge Çevik, an infectious disease physician at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  Read more >>