The federal government has shortened the recommended amount of time to quarantine after a potential exposure to COVID-19, and Kansas quickly said it would follow the new guidance.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it would recommend "acceptable alternatives" to the original mandate that people quarantine for 14 days after being exposed to the novel coronavirus.


Now the guidance says a quarantine period can end after 10 days if a person doesn’t display symptoms. A person can stop quarantining after seven days if they are asymptomatic and test negative for the virus.


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday evening it would mirror the recommendations, which have been adopted by several Europe nations in an effort to get more people back to work.


The move comes as the White House Coronavirus Task Force underscored in a report this week, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, that case rates in Kansas remain well above the national average, even though the state may be starting to see a plateau in the number of new infections.


Those who attended Thanksgiving gatherings with others outside their immediate household should assume they are infected and self-isolate, the report said — a protocol that is different than quarantining and is used after someone has been infected.


And the CDC maintains that quarantining for 14 days remains "the best way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19."


Some public health officials say they have questions about the move, saying there is still a risk — albeit a small one — of transmission if someone leaves quarantine before the 14 days are up.


Those small risks can add up, however, when a state has widespread community spread like Kansas does.


"I think it is potentially dangerous," said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Kansas Health System. "We understand you can have those incubation periods up to 14 days."


Ultimately, though, the decision on whether to follow the new guidelines in Kansas will fall to county health departments, which can choose whether to adopt the new quarantine length.


The 14-day quarantine would still be recommended if possible, KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said in a statement, and those in congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities or prisons, wouldn’t be eligible for a shortened quarantine.


Still, Norman said, people may be more likely to comply with the new measures.


"The guidance is being changed at a federal level to encourage more people to get tested and encourage better compliance with quarantines," he said.