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What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and the Omicron Variant

As scientists and clinicians learn more about the Omicron variant, the Infectious Diseases Society of America highlights four things we know right now that can help reduce transmission and the risk of disease. 

THOSE WHO ARE VACCINATED DO MUCH BETTER. Individuals who are up to date on their COVID vaccinations, including a booster shot, are much better protected against severe disease, hospitalization and death from COVID. Individuals who have received a booster also do not need to quarantine following exposure to COVID-19 as long as they do not have symptoms.

WEAR A MASK. Given high levels of COVID spread in communities throughout the country and world, people should wear well-fitting masks in public indoor settings, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated, currently infected or have been exposed to the virus. Masking is especially important for infected individuals who are leaving isolation and exposed individuals leaving quarantine. These individuals have the potential of continuing to spread virus, so they must mask up in public when around others and in their own homes around family members or roommates as detailed in CDC guidance.

STAY HOME WHEN SICK. While current CDC guidance allows individuals to end isolation after 5 days, that guidance is only applicable if symptoms are improving and fever has resolved, which is more likely to be the case for vaccinated individuals. Similarly, the reduced quarantine period is only applicable for individuals who do not develop symptoms or test positive. If testing is not available, individuals who have been exposed to COVID or are experiencing symptoms should assume they are infectious and follow CDC isolation and quarantine guidance. These guidance documents should not be used to force employees to report to work when unwell, nor should they be used to cut paid sick leave. When in doubt, individuals should exercise caution with regard to ending isolation or quarantine.  

TESTING PRIORITIES. Until the number of available tests increases to meet the nation’s demand, testing should be prioritized for health care professionals and other frontline responders. Lag time between the Administration’s important actions to expand testing capacity and the actual availability of tests underscores the importance of strengthening our nation’s preparedness to facilitate more rapid responses.

“Scientific evidence increases and changes constantly during a pandemic as we learn more,” said Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, FIDSA, president of IDSA. “It is critically important for government agencies to collaborate with frontline clinicians and state and local public health authorities. This helps ensure that on-the-ground expertise informs policy. It also helps ensure that communications to the public are clear.”  

About IDSA

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a community of over 12,000 physicians, scientists, and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Its purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases. Learn more at

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