In accordance with CDC recommendations for shortened options of quarantine lengths by Dec. 11.
The department is considering adding a 10-day quarantine time to the options available to patients exposed to COVID-19. If a patient shows no symptoms during the quarantine period, adheres to strict social distancing requirements and wears a mask then the quarantine can be shortened.
However, ADPH cautions that individuals who are allowed to utilize the 10-day quarantine time frame will be required to continue monitoring for symptoms during the entire 14-day period.
ADPH said that they will not be adopting the CDC recommendation for a seven-day quarantine that involved a testing requirement as the state lacks adequate testing resources. In Alabama, the state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, is the only official allowed to establish quarantine procedures for infectious diseases within the state.
"While we would like to be able to decrease the home quarantine time frame to seven days for persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19, this is not possible at this time," said Harris.
He also added that the high case numbers in Alabama are a contributing factor in ADPH's decision to not allow for a seven-day quarantine period.
On Tuesday, Alabama added 4,436 cases and Jackson County added 95 cases.
The other concern Harris mentioned was a lack of testing resources which has become a significant problem as the states test positivity rate has soared passed a CDC recommended 5% to a 7-day average of 27% of tests returning positive. Jackson County’s rate has gone even higher to over 50% of tests returning a positive result — signaling an inadequate amount of testing and uncontrolled community spread in Jackson County and much of Northern Alabama.
The CDC announced the potential for shortening quarantine times earlier this month and allowed two options — a 10-day quarantine period that required no test, and a seven-day period that would require a negative test within three days of the end of quarantine.
This recommendation is based on research by the CDC that shows that the after 10 days the risk of transmission has decreased to roughly 1–10%. This is only allowed for individuals who have shown no symptoms throughout their quarantine period.
The other option, which ADPH does not plan to adopt for use in Alabama, would require an individual to receive a negative test within three days before ending quarantine. The possibility of infection utilizing this strategy is 5–12%.
"We should not knowingly increase the percentage of possibly infectious asymptomatic persons out and about," said Harris about the lack of ability to implement the seven-day option.
The health officer also noted that the first doses of vaccine are likely to be in Alabama within the next two weeks; however, they will not be widely available to the rest of Alabamians until well into 2021 saying they are "months away."
Quarantine procedures have been utilized since the 14th century to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and the length and procedures utilized have fluctuated based on each disease.
For certain diseases the Federal Government retains the power to set quarantine procedures; however, for diseases like COVID-19 quarantine procedures have largely been left to the determination of state health officials under the recommendation of the CDC.
"ADPH continues to encourage every Alabamian to stay home when possible, and to practice social distancing and wear masks when they must be out," said Harris. "Please protect the most vulnerable people in our state by doing the right things."
Individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 should consult with a doctor to determine if testing is necessary and to then understand what course of action for a quarantine need to be taken.
The CDC and ADPH still recommend that if at all possible, the 14-day quarantine period is the ideal procedure to prevent transmission of the disease.