CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — New guidelines shortening COVID-19 quarantine times are about keeping people at their jobs, and does not signal the pandemic is letting up, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci joined “Morning in America” on Thursday to discuss the country’s plan for mitigating the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19 and to answer NewsNation viewer questions live. He also elaborated on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s changing recommendations for asymptomatic patients, noting that the shorter isolation period could help keep “society running.”

“There is no magic number” of vaccinations or cases to signal the end of the pandemic, Fauci said. “It’s when the level of … virus is so low in society that it doesn’t interfere with our function. Three hundred thousand (cases) per day is not out of it. You want to get very, very low.”

New cases of COVID-19 have soared to the highest levels on record in recent days. There are now more than 265,000 cases per day on average in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The CDC also reported 377,014 COVID cases on Dec. 29.

But the solution to the spread of COVID-19 is more complicated than setting the nation’s sights on a targeted number of daily infections, Fauci said. The severity of the cases are important. So far, the omicron variant is not making people as sick as previous COVID-19 versions, and booster shots are helping to prevent serious infection.

“What’s important is getting a level of hospitalization that’s quite low so that people are not concerned that if they get infected, they’re going to wind up seriously ill, so that it’s a very unusual event when someone gets hospitalized,” Fauci said. “As opposed to now, when we have in the hospital at any given time 70-80,000 people. That’s not where we want to be. We need to be much lower than that.”

The CDC recently outlined new COVID-19 guidelines that recommend a five-day isolation period for those infected with COVID-19. Under the new rules, all Americans who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, should isolate themselves for five days and wear a mask for another five, even among family at home. Boosted Americans who are close contacts of a confirmed case do not need to isolate, provided they’re wearing masks for 10 days after they were exposed.

The decision, Fauci said, strikes a balance of keeping Americans safe without “drain(ing) society of their very critical workers.”

“It’s not 100% risk-free but then again nothing is 100% risk-free,” Fauci said.

The decision, Fauci said, strikes a balance of keeping Americans safe without “drain(ing) society of their very critical workers.”

The updated guidelines aren’t a reflection that asymptomatic people are less contagious, rather how long a person is contagious for, Fauci said.  

“The first five days it’s much more likely that you have the capability of transmitting it whether you’re with symptoms or without symptoms,” Fauci said.

That likelihood “diminishes considerably” in the second five days, he said.

To avoid the spread of the virus, Fauci has suggested smaller gatherings ahead of New Year’s Eve.

“If your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy New Year, I would strongly recommend that this year we not do that,” he said.

Earlier this week he suggested the administration should consider requiring people on domestic flights to be vaccinated. Though he clarified it would only happen if things get “dramatically” worse, he said it’s “on the table” alongside several other mitigations.

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