The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in new guidance Friday that unvaccinated students who are deemed close contacts of a positive case and continually test negative do not need to quarantine.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the changes to the CDC's coronavirus guidelines during a White House briefing Friday. Prior to the announcement, the agency had recommended that all unvaccinated close contacts quarantine.


The agency announced the changes following the results of two studies that determined that a so-called "test to stay" strategy to avoid mandatory quarantine periods was successful in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus in schools.

“These studies demonstrate that 'test to stay' works to keep unvaccinated children in school safely,” Walensky said.

The change in guidance comes as school districts across the country have announced a fresh wave of closures and a return to remote learning as COVID-19 cases increase nationwide and amid continuing uncertainty over the severity of the new omicron variant.

Detroit and Washington, D.C., are just two localities that have announced school closures due to high coronavirus infectivity. Additionally, several universities in recent days, including Stanford, Princeton, and Cornell, have announced a return to remote instruction in a bid to limit community spread.

"In order for 'test to stay' to be implemented safely and correctly, some key prevention measures need to be included," Walensky said. "In both studies, masks were worn consistently and correctly. Close contacts of a positive case were monitored for symptoms and stayed home if they became ill. And those who did not develop symptoms had regular testing."

In a press release, the CDC said that "Test-to-Stay is another valuable tool in a layered prevention strategy that includes promoting vaccination of eligible students and staff, requiring everyone age 2 and older wear a mask inside schools and facilities, keeping at least 3 feet of distance between students, screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and staying home when sick."


"Widespread vaccination for COVID-19 is a critical tool to best protect everyone from COVID-19 and COVID-19 related complications," the CDC said. Children ages five and up are currently eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, and anyone 16 years or older is encouraged to get a booster shot."