This is a problem that a growing number Americans are having to deal with: What can you do if someone in your home tests positive for COVID-19? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations for Americans who live in the same household as those who have tested positive for Omicron.
The latest guidance provides specific recommendations to Americans who are “ongoingly exposed” to the virus at their home due to living with someone infected. Although the CDC recommends that people with positive results stay in a separate room and use a separate toilet, it acknowledges that this is not always possible.
The agency advises Americans to wear a well-fitting mask in their homes if they are unable to avoid being exposed to the infected person. They should also “limit the number people who have close contact with the case.” Exposure to family members or roommates should be done at least five days after the end of isolation for any infected persons who live with you.
Although the agency admitted last month that not all Americans had completed the quarantine and isolation period, an Axios/Ipsos poll showed that most Americans would still choose to isolate themselves even if they only have a mild or infrequent infection.
However, it is estimated that 81 million people live in areas “unsuitable to isolation or quarantine” of others.
“Here, we have many families who live in small groups or close together. It can be difficult to separate the families. It’s possible for everyone to be exposed once one person has COVID,” Dr. Pia Panaraj, who is the head of a research group on pediatric immunization at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said.
Pannaraj’s 2020 study found that Los Angeles families had lower incomes and more people living in their bedrooms. This was a significant factor in predicting the spread of the disease.
Nearly half the 2020 participants were in households with more people than one bedroom. 77% of them also had an annual income of less than $50,000.
They need to work outside of the home. They live in different housing situations. They also have a lot more trouble with childcare. They might have one family looking after all the children in an apartment complex. We saw this in some families and it was difficult to prevent infections,” stated Pannaraj.
Pannaraj stated that even in extremely difficult situations, there are things families can do to reduce their risk. These include wearing a mask and spending time outside or in well-ventilated areas.
“In our study, secondary transmission was very high in situations where there were sometimes 10 to 11 people sharing a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment. However, we can take steps to prevent it,” Pannaraj said.
The CDC recently made some concessions in its guidance to allow Americans to do what they can realistically to reduce the spread of the virus in their homes and communities.
“We recognize that at this point in pandemic, a transmission by itself, if not to a person with high risk, has on average less impact than it would earlier in the pandemic,” Dr. Barbara Mahon (CDC’s COVID-19 Respond Incident Manager) told a panel of outside advisors earlier this month.
“It is very important that society remains open. Mahon said that it is important for kids to be able attend school in person.
The agency stated last week that health care workers who have recently recovered from the virus were not required to work restrictions after a high-risk exposure. The agency relaxed its recommendations regarding quarantine for children in schools who have not been boosted yet.
Mahon stated that the Center for Homeland Defense and Security had also updated their recommendations for K-12 school settings and had additional recommendations for special settings such as early childhood education. This webinar was hosted on Tuesday by Mahon.
Is Omicron more contagious at home?
Scientists are still trying to understand why Omicron variants have spread so quickly in households all over the globe, and the CDC has made some tweaks.
The CDC estimated Tuesday that the variant was responsible for nearly all new infections across the country, and it has been so for a second week. Although the pace of new infections has slowed nationwide, some states continue to see their infection rates rise to unprecedented levels.
Omicron’s infection was first reported in early reports. This raised concerns about the possibility of it spreading. In December, the Emerging infectious Diseases journal of the CDC published a report that Omicron could spread even though there were strict quarantine precautions.
Omicron’s rapid growth is now being attributed to immune evasion, which is when the highly-mutated Omicron is more likely to reinfect people or cause breakthrough infections. This is because it is able to evade the body’s initial defenses against neutralizing antibodies.
According to the World Health Organization, preliminary data from South Africa suggests that there may be a slight increase in transmission than Delta. The WHO cited early research that was done in South Africa on Omicron last year and concluded that Omicron’s rapid spread could be explained by immune evasion levels between 25% and 50%.
The United Kingdom’s health authorities reached the same conclusion earlier in the month. Officials in the United Kingdom believe Omicron is “at least as transmissible” as Delta, but that it could also have “substantial immunity evasion” to both natural and vaccine-derived immunity. The variant had a higher “secondary attacking rate” in households than Delta, according to their data.
Omicron was found to be as infectious as Delta in vaccinated households. However, data from Denmark showed that Omicron was not significantly more dangerous than Delta.
“Our data suggest that the non-pharmaceutical intervention that was used to control previous variants SARS-CoV-2 is also likely to work against the Omicron [variant],” concludes the Danish study’s authors in a preprint, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.
The scientists also stated that although booster vaccines do offer some protection against household transmission, this lower level of protection means that vaccines are less likely to prevent transmission within a population.
Omicron’s spread may not have prevented the availability of vaccines to stop the spread of the virus within the home. However, experts claim that data shows that the shots are highly effective in reducing the risk of serious disease.
“Vaccines are a great way to avoid serious COVID-19 complications and infections.” Even in a crowded environment, such as crowded homes, vaccinations can help,” stated Pannaraj.