Clarifying CDC quarantine and isolation recommendations

Late Tuesday afternoon, the CDC clarified its recommendations released on December 27. The document (available here) provides more context and condition-specific detail. Accurate public health guidance — especially for a fast-moving, highly-contagious, mutating virus — will not always provide practical workplace guidance.

For most supply chain professionals, here are my reductionist interpretations for the workplace.

Vaccinated, boosted, and asymptomatic workers who come into close contact with someone with covid do not need to quarantine. For ten days after close contact, vaccinated, boosted, asymptomatic workers should wear a well-fitting mask around others.

Non-vaccinated, non-boosted workers — without symptoms — should quarantine for at least five days after close contact with covid… and then follow the specific steps set out in the recommendation before returning to work.

When anyone has symptoms of covid and/or tests positive, s/he should isolate… and then follow the specific steps set out in the recommendation before returning to work.

Vaccinated, boosted workers do not need to test-out of isolation. (The reasons outlined in the clarified recommendation are consistent with what Dr. Walensky told Colbert on Monday night.) Some states still have public health orders in place that require testing-out of quarantine and isolation. Current demand for testing far exceeds supply.

In my personal judgment, many previous good practices to reduce transmission have been overcome by events, overcome by omicron’s extremely contagious character.

If sick, stay home. If vaccinated, boosted and feeling fine, please come to work, you are needed. You will be needed even more over the next two or three weeks as the number of new infections skyrocket and many of your co-workers should not or cannot work. Given omicron’s rush and reach, you should wear a mask when working with others.

On December 27 OSHA announced changes in its stance. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear related oral arguments this Friday. I do not expect OSHA standards to be significantly clarified prior to peak-omicron.

As stated previously (before any of the recent CDC recommendations), I am not a lawyer or epidemiologist. I am someone who wants to safely facilitate continued flow of water, food, pharmaceuticals, fuel, and other critical freight. This is never risk-free work. I recognize the profound risks involved if flows are seriously disrupted. How do I behave as a prudent person with a fundamental duty to fulfill… during a pandemic? How do I do my best to serve others with what is available? How do I square necessity with possibility?