CDC revises quarantine recommendation

On Monday afternoon the CDC recommended a new set of mitigation measures for individuals potentially exposed to or infected with SARS-CoV-2. The revisions reflect what is now known about the omicron variant and protections provided by vaccines. The full recommendation can be found here.

Of particular relevance to many supply chain professionals is the following excerpt from the CDC statement:

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

If you:

Have been boosted
Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months
Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months

  • Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  • Test on day 5, if possible.

If you develop symptoms get a test and stay home.

The recommendation is appropriately contextual and conditional. Different risk-factors justify a differentiated response. But… in other words, if a boosted or recently vaccinated person has been exposed to infection but remains asymptomatic, no work restriction is recommended.

Testing is recommended “if possible”. This CDC language recognizes that over the next few — crucial — weeks, testing supplies may not fulfill demand created by omicron’s rapid spread. The CDC statement also includes: “For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure.” The use of that modal verb — would — is not accidental, and implies uncertain ability or likelihood for a whole host of reasons, including being asymptomatic and unaware of exposure.

Most media have so-far headlined other elements of the CDC statement (here and here and here), focusing on the isolation period for a confirmed case being reduced to five days.

As outlined in prior posts (here and here), the speed and severity of omicron’s spread could result in flows of food, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and other crucial freight depending on vaccinated and boosted workers who test positive but remain asymptomatic continuing in their roles. The CDC language recognizes that until testing is much more widely available this will sometimes be the practical outcome.

Friends and colleagues operating supply chains note that vaccination rates among their workforces are lower than the national average. If vaccine mandates are imposed, they are concerned a significant portion of their already tight workforces will walk away. If so, flow through their nodes and channels will narrow… potentially dramatically. So, this important CDC decision does not resolve current or prospective supply chain challenges. But this CDC revision does reduce constraints not well-matched with omicron’s risk for those who are vaccinated and boosted.