California's New COVID Policy Distances From CDC

State now allows those with COVID but no symptoms to go out in public
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2024 9:30 AM CST
COVID but No Symptoms? This State Says You're Free to Roam
A woman wears a mask after a bout with COVID in Des Plaines, Illinois, on Sept. 27, 2021.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Just tested positive for COVID but don't have any symptoms? You're now free to move about in public as you please—at least if you're in California, where coronavirus policy has been "quietly" updated in a distancing from the CDC's own guidelines, reports NBC News. According to the amended policy from the state's Department of Public Health, adjusted discreetly earlier this month, for individuals who are confirmed to have COVID but are asymptomatic, "there is no infectious period for the purpose of isolation or exclusion." Meaning, those patients don't have to hunker down at home and steer clear of others.

If a person has COVID and does have mild symptoms, they only have to stay isolated for one day, as long as those symptoms are improving and there's been no fever for 24 hours. The CDC, meanwhile, still advises people with COVID, symptomatic or not, to isolate for at least five days and stay away from family members. California's policy continues to recommend wearing a mask for 10 days if you've tested positive, as does the policy in Oregon, which similarly has minimized isolation time for asymptomatic patients. "We are now at a different point in time with reduced impacts from COVID-19 compared to prior years due to broad immunity from vaccination and/or natural infection, and readily available treatments available for infected people," the DPH said in a release, per NBC.

Some health experts suggest this development was inevitable. "COVID is not quite there yet, but it's becoming like influenza and other winter respiratory viruses," Dr. Dean Blumberg of UC Davis Children's Hospital tells CBS News. Others, however, think this move may be too much of an "overcorrection" to California's traditionally careful COVID stance. "'If you don't have symptoms, you're not really risky to those around you' [is a message] not only counter to what the science says, but it's also very dismissive of the fact that this person does have an infectious disease," says University of Maryland School of Medicine epidemiology instructor Saskia Popescu, per NBC. More here. (More California stories.)

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