CDC may shorten coronavirus quarantine guidelines: WSJ

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Dr. Jennifer Cowart, internal medicine physician, discuss rising U.S. coronavirus cases.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The US is recording the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus since May. Continues to average close to 200,000 new cases a day. Why is the CDC thinking about shortening the quarantine time?

JENNIFER COWART: Yes, thank you. I think it's a really good question. Looking at it, they're looking at the evidence that most people who become positive after an exposure to COVID-19 become positive within that seven to 10-day window or before then. So it doesn't mean that you may not have some folks who become positive on the later end of the 10 to 14-day window, but the vast majority are going to become positive earlier in that time frame, which is one reason they're considering shortening the timeframe.

Looks like they're also going to recommend that there be a negative test associated with that shorter quarantine. They're looking at it also from a pragmatic perspective because 14 days of quarantine is really difficult for many people to adhere to for a variety of reasons. They're trying to work and go to school and do other things. So I believe they're looking at it in the sense of, we can maintain a high degree of safety and potentially even a higher degree of adherence with quarantining with a little bit shorter quarantine, still catch the majority of cases, and encourage a negative test in that-- to try to keep things as safe as they can be.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I know that you're working at a hospital there in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm hearing reports from hospitals across the country and clinics that they're struggling to get that PPE. What's your situation in your hospital? And is that becoming a problem?

JENNIFER COWART: I'm really grateful that we've had good access to PPE through the course of this pandemic. But I know that's not the situation in every hospital across the country. So in order to keep health care workers safe, we really do need to be sure that everybody has access to surgical masks, to N95 respirators for those high-risk encounters, gloves, gowns, face coverings or face shields or goggles. Because we do see evidence that covering the eyes, it reduces the risk of health care transmission further.

So I'm grateful that my hospital, we've had good access to PPE. But every hospital, every clinic needs to have that same access.

JENNIFER COWART: You know, US officials planning to release 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses nationwide. And its first distribution, of course, would be to frontline workers like yourself and to people who are at high risk, namely the elderly. Do you think the CDC is doing enough to prepare people for the possible side effects of these vaccines?

JENNIFER COWART: It's a great question because it does look like this is a vaccine that, the Pfizer and Moderna versions, that produce a vigorous immune response. And so I think folks should be prepared to feel the effects of this vaccine. Not everybody will, and that does not mean the vaccine is not working. But in many patients, they will get two doses of the vaccine, and either or both doses may produce a day of feeling some mild flu-like symptoms, some headaches, some aches and pains and shells. And folks should be prepared for that.

I think it's a positive thing because I'd rather have one day of feeling achy compared to two weeks of illness and the risk of passing it on to my friends, family, and co-workers. But I agree I would love to see all of us, myself included, getting that message out there that this vaccine may produce a vigorous response. You may not feel well for a day or so. Still, very crucial to take that second dose of vaccine because you need both doses to get the full effect of this vaccine.

JENNIFER COWART: That's, I think, the worry, right, that you would get the first dose, you would have these side effects, you would get concerned about that and not go back for the second dose. What would that do if a large enough amount of people decided to forego the second dose?

JENNIFER COWART: Right. And I think the vaccine has tested and known to be effective with both doses. So I think the risk would be that folks would be in completely protected if they get one dose and not the second dose. So I think we need to be very clear in saying, from the vaccine trials, the experience is that both doses are needed and that you can have a response, that you may not feel great for a day, that you need to take some acetaminophen or some ibuprofen, maybe take the day off of work if you need to.

But it's better to have one day of feeling achy after the vaccine, means you're getting a good robust response. And then you need to do both times to get that in order to have that full protection. And that's the best way to keep the COVID-19 from continuing to spread, devastating our communities, working on our economy in negative ways. The best way to keep us all safe and back to work is both doses. And it may make you feel not great for a day, but it's still better than getting COVID-19.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And real quickly, doctor, your advice to people who are going to be seeing family over this Thanksgiving.

JENNIFER COWART: Absolutely. So I think of everything in terms of risk and benefit and harm reduction. So if you need to travel, if you need to see your family, ways to keep it safer would be limit the size of your gathering, so not very many people in a room, eat outside if you're able to, if the weather is nice, go outdoors, have your Thanksgiving meal outside where folks can take their masks off for a moment to eat and eat outside. Third, as I just mentioned, masks.

I know it may not feel comfortable to have masks on around our family members, but that's the best way that if you need to have a gathering, keep it small, wear your masks, and be outdoors as much as possible. If you do decide to get a COVID test before your trip, I think that's a great way to show that if you have a negative test, maybe your risk right this second is lower. But do not take that negative test as a license to think, great, I'll take my mask off, and I'll have a massive gathering of 50 people where we all share the mashed potatoes.

The way to use that test is if you take that test and it's positive, you cancel your trip. You don't go meet with family if you have a positive test. If you have a negative test, it means you're still going to wear your mask, you're going to limit the size of your gathering, and you're going to go outside as much as possible.