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Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, is praising New York officials for lowering the number of days health care workers must remain in quarantine after having COVID-19.
The state announced on Christmas Eve that fully vaccinated health care staff and other essential workers can return to work five days after a positive coronavirus test if they meet certain safety standards. Previously they had to remain out for 10 days.
“You need the health care workers. And when you have them out for the full 10 days, and you do that over a wide swath of people, you can have a situation where you really do not have enough health care workers,” Fauci told NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday.
“I think that’s something that we’re going to be considering” beyond New York, Fauci added.
Public health officials have worried that the highly infectious omicron variant, though it may cause milder illness, could once again overwhelm hospitals with the sheer number of patients getting sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for health care workers with COVID-19 last week, saying they could return to work after seven days if they were asymptomatic and had a negative test.
“As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to Omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at the time.
Fauci said easing quarantine guidance for the general population would be “under consideration” but added that the administration was currently focusing on getting essential workers back on the job.
Fauci also said during an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that it would be “reasonable to consider” a vaccine requirement for domestic flights. He noted that such mandates already exist for some colleges and workplaces, and that it might help boost the number of Americans who get the shot.
“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.