Dec. 2 (UPI) -- People exposed to someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for seven to 10 days, instead of the previously recommended 14 days, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
Quarantines can end seven days after a negative COVID-19 test, or 10 days without getting tested if a person does not have symptoms, CDC officials said in updated guidance during a teleconference with reporters.
The non-testing options were created to account for testing delays and shortages in some parts of the country, agency officials said.
The changes come as virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise across the country, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, said on the call.
Although the CDC's quarantine guidance has changed, people should continue to follow the recommendations of their local public health authorities, he said.
"As we learn more about COVID-19, we continue to refine our guidelines," Walke said.
The new recommendations are intended to provide U.S. residents with "acceptable alternatives" to the 14-day quarantine period, particularly as the winter holidays, approach, he said.
With the holidays just weeks away, the CDC still recommends that people postpone travel and stay home, according to Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of the agency's Travelers' Health Branch.
However, if people choose to travel, the CDC recommends that they get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before departure and three to five days after they return home, she said.
In addition, following travel, people should limit non-essential activities and stay home for at least seven days to reduce their risk for spreading the virus, Friedman said.
"Cases are rising [so] the safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home," she told reporters on the Wednesday call.
"However, we know it's a hard decision and that people need to have time to prepare and talk to family," she said.
Despite recommending against it over the Thanksgiving holiday -- in guidance released six days before the holiday -- travel was still high, she acknowledged.
The changes to the travel and quarantine guidance were made based on modeling studies performed by the CDC and other researchers, according to Dr. John Brooks, an epidemiologist with the agency.
With the reduced quarantine periods, the risk for spreading COVID-19 to others is as low as 1% but may be as high as 12%, he said.
However, agency officials believe the risk is "acceptably low" for most Americans, he added.
"We can safely reduce length of quarantine, but accepting that there's a small residual risk someone could transmit COVID-19 to others," Brooks said on Wednesday's call.