Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D.

The Department of Health and Human Services may shorten the recommended two-week COVID-19 quarantine period, a federal health official says.

There is now “a preponderance of evidence” that a shortened quarantine complemented by a COVID-19 test could be an effective way to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, said Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for HHS, in a briefing last Tuesday.

“We are actively working on that type of guidance right now, reviewing the evidence. But we want to make absolutely sure that these kinds of recommendations aren’t willy-nilly,” he added. He did not offer more details.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is part of HHS, currently recommends that people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 stay home for 14 days and monitor their health

Most Americans have not been exposed

Meanwhile, most Americans — especially older adults — have not yet been exposed to COVID-19, leaving them vulnerable to future infection, according to a new CDC report.

In a nationwide study of more than 177,000 serum samples from commercial laboratories, the agency’s investigators found that as of September, most people in the United States and Puerto Rico did not have antibody evidence of a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Though the numbers varied widely between locales, fewer than 10% of people had detectable antibodies in 42 of 49 jurisdictions with calculated estimates. 

Antibody prevalence was often lowest in older age groups. It was also highest in the Northeast, at 23%, which the researchers attributed to substantial outbreaks in New York City.

The findings reinforce the need for continued adherence to public health preventive measures, the researchers concluded.