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New CDC guidelines leave some confused, frustrated amid omicron surge

MDH says the only call it has had with the CDC about the new guidance emphasized workforce considerations over disease prevention.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health knows that anyone with a job or a kid in school might be confused and frustrated by different COVID quarantine guidelines right now, but that doesn't mean they have answers yet.

"The Department of Health is currently in a tough place and kind of in a holding pattern," said Kris Ehresmann, director of the infectious disease department at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Ehresmann says MDH got no advanced notice of the CDC cutting its quarantine guidance in half from 10 days post-symptoms down to five, and a week later, she says they've seen little more than the news release.

As far as going back to school or work using this guidance after infection, Ehresmann says it's up to the individual at this point.

"I'm sure that districts and parents and everyone is frustrated and we are too. We don't have guidance that we can use to update until we get the details from CDC," Ehresmann said. "CDC has different guidance for different settings, so for instance, right now, they have said that this new guidance that they have put forward does not apply to healthcare workers, but they have also had, in the past, specific guidance for schools, for childcare, corrections, for institutes of higher education."

She added, "There's not information about what you would do for kids who are too young to be vaccinated. That's our challenge and so that's why we aren't able to provide specific guidance at this time."

She says the only call they've had with the CDC about the guidance emphasized workforce considerations over disease prevention.

"Recognizing that with widespread omicron transmission, we could have devastating workforce implications with so many people out of work for isolation and quarantine," she said. "It's really important, in general, that businesses start thinking about, well, what if we have a lot of staff who are out due to illness? How would we handle that and how would we continue to do the important work that we do? Particularly as omicron is spreading and we expect a lot of people sick at the same time."

On Sunday, Dr. Fauci said pushback from health officials about the shorter quarantine might lead the CDC to add a testing requirement before someone can end their quarantine.

"Testing could be a part of that, and I think we're going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC," Fauci said.

But Ehresmann says that might be easier said than done.

"With the increased demand, there may be capacity issues, and so, in light of that, we want to make sure that we're using the testing that we have available in the best way possible," Ehresmann said.

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