Anthony Fauci Defends CDC Cutting Isolation Time—'Keep Our Society Running'

Dr. Anthony Fauci has defended the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after the agency issued updated advice saying that those who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for just five days if they are asymptomatic.

Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), made several media appearances following the CDC's announcement on Monday.

The isolation period has been reduced from 10 days to five for asymptomatic people and the CDC cited scientific evidence that people are most infectious two days before they develop symptoms and three days afterward.

After the five days in isolation, asymptomatic people are advised to wear a mask around others for a further five days.

However, the change has proven controversial with some health experts taking to Twitter this week to express dismay about the decision.

Fauci told CNN's Jim Acosta on Tuesday that the reason for the change "is that with the sheer volume of new cases that we are having and that we expect to continue with Omicron, one of the things we want to be careful of is that we don't have so many people out."

He said if a person has symptoms, they should be out, but added: "if you are asymptomatic and you are infected we want to get people back to jobs—particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly."

He said he supported the CDC's "prudent" decision that would get "people back in half the time than they would have been out so they can get back to the workplace doing things that are important to keep society running smoothly."

The NIAID director reiterated to MSNBC's Tiffany Cross that the CDC's decision was the right one and "based on science."

"Instead of keeping people out of action, out of work, out of society, for 10 days, if you're infected and without symptoms then you have five days of isolation and then you can go back out into society with a mask worn consistently," Fauci said.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked Fauci on Tuesday whether there was scientific evidence that infected people aren't still contagious after five days in isolation.

"Nothing is gonna be 100 percent," Fauci replied. "And this is one of those situations, when you're dealing with a very difficult situation, Chris, that we often say, you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good."

"The fact is that we know that when you're infected, early on in infection for the first several days, you have more of a likelihood to have a high level of virus and to be capable of spreading it," he said.

"As you get into the second half of that 10-day period, we know that the virus in general—not for every [every] person for most of the time, for most of the people—that level of virus diminishes to the point where the CDC feels, and I don't disagree with them at all, that wearing a mask is ample protection during that second half of a 10-day period," Fauci went on.

Fauci said it was important to get people "back functioning in society because the alternative is something that no-one wants and that's to shut down completely."

During another appearance on CNN on Tuesday, host Michael Smerconish asked Fauci if the CDC's decision was due in part to the "risk" of shutting down the economy and society during a 10-day isolation period.

"Well, I wouldn't use the word 'economic,' Michael," Fauci replied. "When you shut down society, when you shut down the country, there's a lot of deleterious effects that go along with that, that go well beyond the economy, the availability of people to get things done for their own health."

"When you shut down the country, you have people who have other diseases who don't have the opportunity to get their HIV test, to get their HIV meds, to get their mammograms, to get the colonoscopies," he went on.

"So I wouldn't just say it's an economic consideration," Fauci said.

Anthony Fauci Testifies at a Senate Hearing
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on July 20, 2021. Fauci has defended the CDC's decision to cut the COVID-19 isolation period for asymptomatic people. STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP/Getty Images