The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations this week shortening isolation and quarantine periods for the Omicron variant.

KGVO News spoke to Missoula City County Health Department Incident Commander Cindy Farr on Wednesday for her reaction to the new guidelines.

“We are reviewing the CDC guidance that came out yesterday and we're updating our protocols,” said Farr. “Basically what they're saying is that they have enough research now that they believe that the most contagious period is the first two days before you get sick, and the first three days after you have symptoms, and so they're recommending a shortened isolation and quarantine period for some individuals. Basically at this time, they're shortening it to five days if you remain asymptomatic.”

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For those who are symptomatic, Farr said more guidance is coming.

“We're still getting into some of the details for what happens if you are symptomatic and how long that period is going to be,” she said. “We're kind of digging for that information right now but we're going to be updating our protocols according to the guidance the CDC put out.”

With reports that symptoms with the Omicron variant are milder than the Delta variant, Farr said it is important not to take the Omicron too lightly.

“I do think that it kind of lulls people into a false sense of security,” she said. “What they're saying now is that research is showing that this is a very contagious virus, but for the most part, people are having mild symptoms, but that's not to say that you can't get really sick with the Omicron variant as well. Obviously, each individual has different risk factors, so if you have underlying chronic conditions, that's going to put you at higher risk of having more complications, the same as it is with Delta.”

Farr said the numbers are definitely rising for new cases and hospitalizations.

“We're definitely seeing a huge increase in the numbers of cases right now,” she said. “For example, today we got 73 new cases and that puts our incidence rate or number per 100,000 people at 30, which is above the tipping point, which means we're probably going to see a pretty large and fast spike in cases. Today, we have nine Missoula County residents hospitalized and nine non residents hospitalized so that number does continue to go up as well.”

According to the CDC, a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%.

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