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Coronavirus Update: CDC ends quarantine recommendation for people exposed to COVID, and FDA recommends more than one test if negative

Two federal agencies updated guidance related to COVID on Thursday, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropping its quarantine recommendation for people who come in contact with an infected person.

Instead, the agency recommends wearing a high-quality mask indoors for 10 days and planning to get tested five days after the exposure. People should also take “extra precautions” around people at high risk for severe disease for 10 days. The CDC previously said people who were not up to date on their vaccinations needed to quarantine after an exposure.

Other changes include guidance that if an individual tests positive for the virus, that person should isolate at home, but can leave isolation on the sixth day if asymptomatic or fever-free.

Patients should plan to wear a mask around others through the 10th day unless they have two negative antigen test results. They should avoid all high-risk people for 10 days. If they experienced moderate illness, such as shortness of breath, or severe illness and were hospitalized, or are immunocompromised, they should plan to isolate for 10 days. The CDC previously did not recommend testing to exit isolation.

A patient with symptoms who suspects having contracted COVID-19 but has not tested positive should also isolate. 

“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” the CDC’s Greta Massetti said in a news release.

Separately, the Food and Drug Administration told people they should take additional at-home COVID-19 tests in some instances even if they’ve tested negative for the virus using an at-home rapid test. If someone has tested negative but has COVID-19 symptoms, that person should wait 48 hours and test a second time.

The new guidelines come as known U.S. cases of COVID seem to be declining based on numbers provided by a New York Times tracker, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.

The daily average for new cases stood at 105,818 on Thursday, according to the New York Times tracker, down 17% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 3% at 42,825, while the daily average for deaths is up 8% to 474.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• New Zealand has welcomed its first cruise ship since the start of the pandemic, Radio New Zealand reported. The P&O Pacific Explorer docked in Queens Wharf in Auckland from Sydney carrying about 2,000 people, divided between 1,200 passengers and 800 crew members. P&O spokesperson David Jones told Morning Report that cruises to New Zealand would be ramping up in the coming months. Twenty ships were due to dock in the country before Christmas, he said.

• Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said Friday that European Union drug regulators may authorize the use of vaccines that are effective against two variants of the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. Lauterbach said he expected the European Medicines Agency to meet Sept. 1 to consider a vaccine that would provide protection against the original virus and the omicron variant, also known as BA.1. The EU agency would likely meet again on Sept. 27 to review a combined vaccine against the original virus and the BA.5 variant, which is responsible for the latest global surge in COVID-19 cases, Lauterbach said.

• Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has launched a compensation program for travelers who miss flights because of the lengthy delays that have plagued the busy European hub for months, the AP reported separately. Schiphol was one of the worst affected airports in Europe at the start of the summer travel season, hurt by staff shortages and soaring demand as air travel rebounded strongly from two-plus years of COVID-19 restrictions. Airlines and airports slashed jobs during the early days of the pandemic, making it difficult to quickly ramp back up to serve the new burst of travelers. The move may head off a possible mass claim for compensation for passengers who missed flights and had holidays derailed.

• Hong Kong’s government says its population has shrunk for a second year as antivirus controls hampered the inflow of new workers and births declined, but it made no mention of an exodus of residents following a crackdown on a pro-democracy movement, the AP reported. The population as of mid-2022 declined by 1.6% from a year earlier to 7,291,600, the Census & Statistics Department announced Thursday. It said there had been a net outflow of 113,200 residents as just 18,300 new residents arrived.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 588.5 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose above 6.43 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 92.7 million cases and 1,036,325 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 223.5 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 67.3% of the total population. But just 107.9 million have had a first booster, equal to 48.3% of the vaccinated population.

Just 21 million of the people 50 years old and over who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 32.7% of those who had a first booster.

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