Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday the CDC might adopt a new testing recommendation for Americans looking to leave isolation after five days – a measure which would come while COVID-19 test shortages are already plaguing the nation as the omicron variant of the coronavirus surges.
The revelation comes about a week after the CDC shortened its recommended isolation and quarantine period for those who test positive for COVID-19 and remain without symptoms from ten to just five days. After the five days, those individuals should wear masks while in public for another five days.
Fauci said Sunday that he believes people coming out of isolation after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis should be re-tested, teasing that the CDC could announce new guidance in the coming days.
"You're right, people are getting concerned about why not test people at that time," Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday. "I myself feel that that's a reasonable thing to do. I believe that the CDC soon will be coming out with more clarification of that, since it obviously has generated a number of questions about at that five-day period: should you or should you not be testing people?"
As of now there is no requirement or even recommendation from the CDC that Americans with COVID-19 who are coming out of isolation be tested. But testing shortages are already gripping the country.
Americans waited for hours in long lines at testing sites as the omicron variant surged over the holiday season, especially after gatherings for Christmas. The White House said Americans would have to wait at least several weeks for the rollout of promised at-home testing kits.
Fauci echoed his sentiment during another appearance Sunday on ABC’s "This Week."
Acknowledging that there "has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested," Fauci told host George Stephanopoulos, "That is something that’s now under consideration."
"The CDC is very well aware there has been some pushback about that," Fauci said. "Looking at it again, there may be an option in that that testing could be a part of that. And I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC."
Fauci’s remarks Sunday also directly contradict what CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN earlier this week when she was asked why they currently do not say to get tested after isolation.
"We opted not to have the rapid test for isolation, because we actually don't know how our rapid tests perform, and how well they predict whether you're transmissible during the end of disease," Walensky told CNN on Wednesday. "The FDA has not authorized them for that use. We don't know how they perform.… So what we said was, well if you got a rapid test at five days, and it's negative, we weren't convinced that you weren't still transmissible."
"What we do know is that the PCR test after infection can be positive for up to 12 weeks," she repeated to NBC’s "Today" Wednesday, answering a question on why a negative test at the five-day mark was not included in the guidance. "So that is not going to be helpful. You're not going to be transmitting during all of that period of time. We've seen that in study after study."
Among critics of the ever-changing CDC guidance is Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
"I do think there is some confusion out there because you've got one set of rules for healthcare workers," the Republican told "Fox News Sunday." "You've got another one for those in the school systems and now you've got one for the general public. I would like to see some harmonization of those because there's just a lot of information out there. We need to simplify it more for the public."
Fox News' Gillian Turner and Tara Prindiville contributed to this report.