COVID-19 isolation guidance might change soon. What's the plan for Wisconsin?

The federal guidelines on isolating during a COVID-19 infection may be changing soon.

That's according to reporting by the Washington Post, which on Tuesday reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to loosen its COVID-19 isolation requirements soon.

During a Q&A Tuesday, Wisconsin's top health official didn't explicitly say whether she agreed with the CDC's expected changes, but said the state Department of Health Services would continue to rely on the CDC for guidance.

Here's what to know about it.

What are the CDC's current COVID-19 guidelines?

Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone with a COVID-19 infection stay home for at least five days and isolate from others, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms. Other recommendations include:

  • If you have symptoms, consider the day after your symptoms began to be day 1 of your isolation. So, if your symptoms began on a Monday, you should isolate at least through Saturday, no matter when you tested positive.

  • If you don't have symptoms, consider the day after you got tested to be day 1 of your isolation. However, if you later develop symptoms, your isolation period restarts, and you should consider the day after symptoms began to be day 1 of your isolation.

  • The CDC says to end isolation after the fifth day if your symptoms are improving and you haven't had a fever for 24 hours.

  • If your symptoms are not improving, keep isolating until they do improve and you haven't had a fever for 24 hours.

  • Isolate through day 10 if you had to be hospitalized or you experienced shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

The Washington Post reports the CDC plans to drop five-day isolation guidelines

The Washington Post cited four unnamed officials with the CDC in reporting that the agency plans to recommend people infected with COVID-19 use symptoms to decide when to end isolation.

The plans would drop the five-day isolation guidelines and align it with guidance on curbing the spread of flu and RSV, the Post reported.

The Post reported that the guidance was expected to be released in the spring for feedback from the public.

The Post reported that the new isolation recommendations would reportedly not apply to hospitals and other health-care settings with more vulnerable populations.

Is Wisconsin changing its COVID-19 isolation guidelines? It's unclear

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Kirsten Johnson did not say whether she agrees with the expected changes to CDC guidelines, when asked about it during a Tuesday Q&A held by Wisconsin Health News.

She said the state health department would continue to turn to CDC for guidance and relies on the agency.

Kirsten Johnson is secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Kirsten Johnson is secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“That’s where we point people,” Johnson said Tuesday. “So we’ll continue to follow some of their guidelines and guidance. I think this is really part and parcel of where we are with this virus. It is going to be with us for the rest of time, very similar to RSV and flu. How do we manage it in the best way possible?”

Some states, including left-leaning ones, have already relaxed COVID isolation guidance

California and Oregon have already broken from CDC guidelines and loosened isolation guidelines for people with COVID-19.

The states no longer ask people with COVID-19 to isolate for a set number of days, USA Today reported.

Instead, those with symptoms can return to work or school after just 24 hours of being without a fever, as long as their symptoms are mild and improving. Those without symptoms are not required to isolate at all, under the state policies.

More: 2 West Coast states are the first to depart from CDC's COVID isolation guidelines

The changes were made to reduce societal disruptions and in light of the reduced impact of COVID-19 compared to past years, now that most people have built up immunity to the virus from prior infections or vaccinations and treatments are more readily available.

Both states still suggest taking precautions if infected. They still say to avoid contact with high-risk people and to wear a mask when around others for 10 days after testing positive or becoming sick.

What are COVID-19 levels like in Wisconsin right now?

Following a peak around Christmas-time, COVID-19 levels have fallen in the state, according to hospitalization data reported to the CDC.

The number of people newly admitted to a Wisconsin hospital has fallen off from a late December and early January high.

In the week ending Feb. 3, an average of about 260 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 each day. That's compared to about 520 COVID-19 patients hospitalized per day in the week ending Jan. 6, according to the CDC.

The COVID levels follow a now-familiar pattern of COVID-19 cases reaching high levels and peaking in the winter.

USA Today reporter Mary Walrath-Holdridge contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What the the COVID-19 guidelines now? How long should I quarantine?