RICHMOND, Va. -- New guidance from the county's top government health agency for people who test positive for coronavirus is sparking mixed reactions among Richmonders.
The Centers for Disease Control said people who have COVID-19 only need to isolate for five days instead of ten as long as they don't have any symptoms. They do not need a negative test to break quarantine, but they should wear a mask around others for an additional five days.
Health officials said the change follows research showing the Omicron variant, which is the most common COVIDA strain in the U.S., is most infectious for two days before and three days after the first sign of symptoms.
“I feel like it's kind of bad timing, especially with the new variant," said Phat Nguyen.
Nguyen said he doesn't feel comfortable with the update given a surge of cases across Virginia. Currently, the seven-day average of the percent positivity rate for PCR COVID-19 tests is 15.9%. That's the highest rate in nearly a year.
Nguyen explained he'd think twice about being around someone five days after they tested positive for COVID-19 even if they were asymptomatic.
“I think I’ll be a little more wary about it," he said. “Just knowing that fact makes me a little uneasy.”
Meanwhile, others, including Carolyn McCarty, feel encouraged by the shortened quarantine time.
“I've always felt like we were smarter as Americans to have a more surgical approach to this," said McCarty. "And the one-size-fits-all of 10 days, whether you have symptoms or not, didn't cognitively make that much sense to me.”
As a small business owner, she believes the new guidance will potentially prevent people from being out of work for long periods of time, which has led to the loss of wages.
“I’m very hopeful that it'll relieve some of the staffing shortages," McCarty said. "I want to balance it with taking a community approach and keeping each other safe."
Nicole Riley, the Virginia Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, also feels optimistic about the shift.
“For business owners, what their hope is, is that it would certainly reduce the number of workplace disruptions," she said.
Riley explained employers are already stretched thin for a number of reasons and forcing their asymptomatic workers to stay home for ten days just piled on to their problems.
“There is a difference if someone is asymptomatic versus someone who does have the symptoms,” she said. “And I think for business owners, I think they see that as kind of a commonsense approach.”
It's important to note the guidance from the CDC was issued on a national scale. As of Tuesday evening, the Virginia Department of Health is still reviewing the CDC's update and should make an announcement soon. Until then, local health districts are following current guidelines from the state which has not changed.
"The process is that CDC and federal agencies who are closely following the science will make recommendations, and then the state which knows their communities will look at that guidance, review the science, and then make a determination for the state," said Cat Long with the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts.