Here, a laboratory robot was holding a well plate containing patients’ samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing, using the CDC serologic test. (James Gathany/CDC 2020)

People who have been exposed to COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine under updated public health guidance issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those exposed to the virus are now encouraged to wear a mask for 10 days and get tested on the fifth day after exposure, according to the CDC. However, they will not be required to quarantine for any period of time.

COVID-positive people are still encouraged to isolate from others for at least five days regardless of their vaccination status and for at least 10 days after testing positive if symptomatic.

According to the CDC, COVID-positive people who have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of medication like Paxlovid and whose symptoms are improving or remain asymptomatic will be allowed to end their isolation period after five days.

CDC officials argued that while transmission of the virus is ongoing and, in some places, at very high levels, the updated guidance reflects that “there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic,” due to the widespread availability of vaccines, therapeutic treatments, high-quality masks and both at-home and PCR testing.

In addition, according to CDC officials, much of the U.S. population now has some level of protection through vaccination, prior infection or both.

“This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” said Greta Massetti, the chief of the CDC’s Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch.

The agency also said distancing from others by at least 6 feet is no longer recommended and lifted the recommendation that K-12 students exposed to the virus test negative regularly to avoid missing class time.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten praised the updated school guidance, suggesting that students, educators and parents all need “as normal a (school) year as possible,” after the previous two school years.

“We will continue to press for what children and educators need to recover and thrive, including enhanced ventilation; lower class size; emotional and social supports such as guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and nurses; and, of course, recruiting and retaining great teachers,” Weingarten said in a statement.

The California Department of Public Health had yet to issue a statement on the updated guidance as of Thursday evening.

The updates announced Thursday are intended to apply to broader county- and community-level settings, according to the CDC.

The agency said it plans to issue specific guidance for settings like health care and travel that reflect Thursday’s updates in near future.