Recommended 10-day quarantine may not be long enough, Austin infectious disease expert says

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The most recent University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium models show a large amount of discrepancy in COVID-19 spread, health experts revealed in a town hall Wednesday.

Lauren Ancel Meyers, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and director of the UT Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, called this “an uncertain moment.”

It should come as no surprise that with strict changes in behavior — like masking, getting vaccinated, getting tested — we could see a decrease in COVID-19 spread in Austin-Travis County. Without those practices, COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers could continue to climb.

Is 10 days long enough to quarantine with the delta variant?

Parker Hudson, M.D., an assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Dell Medical School, suggested more research needs to be done to show whether or not 10 days is the appropriate amount of time for people to quarantine, especially those who are unvaccinated.

In the town hall Wednesday he said viral loads for unvaccinated people are higher on day 10 with the delta variant than other strains of the virus, based on recent research.

Using data from Singapore, which saw the delta variant early on, Hudson showed that in the first few days people got the delta variant, viral loads for vaccinated and unvaccinated people were similar. But as the virus progressed, vaccinated people had much lower viral loads (were less contagious).

“I think that one of the really remaining important questions now with delta is, is isolation time of ten days appropriate especially for unvaccinated?” he said.

When will kids have the option to get vaccinated?

Hudson also talked about vaccine efforts, stressing that even though breakthrough cases have been a concern for people, the vaccine does prevent serious illness or death from COVID-19.

He also said children under 12, who are unable to get vaccinated right now, will likely have that option soon. He suggested a vaccine for children is expected to be reviewed in September.

Meanwhile, a member of the Food and Drug Administration told NBC News last month that they expect that vaccine to be completely ready to go this winter.

Still, Hudson said they’re monitoring the return of unvaccinated students to school.

“We have no studies on delta in schools yet,” he said, saying only studies on the alpha variant have been researched so far. “I am concerned about delta given it’s hard for the general public and us to really wrap our minds around such an infectious virus in an unvaccinated population.”

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