The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted the five-day COVID-19 isolation guideline. Credit: Getty Images

People with COVID-19 no longer have to isolate for five days, per new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. The new recommendations are for the general public and do not apply to healthcare settings such as nursing homes, although industry organizations are encouraging senior living providers, which are not considered to be healthcare settings, to follow them.

The CDC now recommends that people who are sick with respiratory virus symptoms stay home for 24 hours after they are fever-free and their symptoms start to improve. The guidance is more consistent with other viruses such as the flu and RSV.

“This brings a unified, practical approach to addressing risk from a range of common respiratory viral illnesses, such as influenza and RSV, that have similar routes of transmission and symptoms and similar prevention strategies,” the guidance stated. “The updated guidance on steps to prevent spread when you are sick particularly reflects the key reality that many people with respiratory virus symptoms do not know the specific virus they are infected with.”

The CDC indicated last month that it likely would lift the five-day isolation guidance. The shift comes as hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to decline.

Despite the change, providers urged older adults, who are more at risk for adverse outcomes from COVID-19, to stay vigilant against the virus.

“It’s critical that older adults take all precautions to protect themselves and others in their communities — and, for continued defense, follow the new guidance and get a spring vaccine,” a LeadingAge spokesperson told the McKnight’s Clinical Daily.

Current CDC guidelines encourage assisted living, group homes and other residential care settings that are not nursing homes to follow Friday’s updated recommendations, a spokesperson for the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said in an email to the McKnight’s Clinical Daily.

“AHCA / NCAL will continue to support providers in all long term and post-acute care settings to follow the CDC recommendations for infection prevention,” David Gifford, MD, MPH, chief medical officer, AHCA / NCAL, told the McKnight’s Clinical Daily. “We’re encouraged that CDC continues to evaluate the impact of respiratory viruses on the community, and evolve its guidance based on the data. Providers are making every effort to educate and encourage residents and staff to get vaccinated, as it is an effective form of protection and reduces hospitalizations and death from COVID-19.”

Read more about how the new guidelines will affect senior living providers in McKnight’s Senior Living.