Fort Knox Launches New COVID-19 Quarantine Policy Amid Omicron Outbreak | Item

The entry of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 led Army officials to change their quarantine policy. However, much of the old policy remains in effect, requiring military and civilian personnel to use good judgment to keep themselves and others around them healthy and safe. This includes working from home for at least five full days and monitoring general health for an additional five days.
(Photo credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News)


FORT KNOX, Ky. – The omicron variant of COVID-19 has swept across the US landscape faster than any previous variant, leading to heightened precautions to try to slow the spread.

As a result, Fort Knox officials changed the facility’s quarantine policy, effective Jan. 24.

“One of the things that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] authorized – it’s not mandatory, it’s not a mandate, it’s not a law – is that people have to move to a different quarantine status now, ”said Dr James Stephens, head of preventive medicine at the Irish Army Health Clinic at Fort Knox. “In the past, you have been quarantined for 14 days. We knew 14 days because older variants took up to 14 days to grow, incubate in your body, and develop disease.

“Omicron changed all that.”

Omicron, identified by scientists as B.1.1.529, was first detected in Botswana and South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24, 2021.

According to the CDC website, the Omicron variant behaves differently from previous variants in that it spreads much faster and disappears from the system faster. The CDC reversed the original 14-day quarantine period and reduced it to five days.

“Most people develop disease by day 2,” Stephens said. “Most people also end up not being infectious by day 5. The caveat is that there are still up to 30% of people who are infectious at that time, but because Omicron is considered as such a low risk, the CDC said allowing that 30% out was an acceptable risk.

Stephens said there were other factors that weighed in on the CDC’s decision.

Fort Knox Launches New COVID-19 Quarantine Policy Amid Omicron Outbreak

Fort Knox’s latest guidelines on quarantine and isolation during infection or exposure as of February 4, 2022
(Photo Credit: Fort Knox Policy)


“They also understood that a lot of people had to go back to school, they had to go back to work,” Stephens said. “It’s a huge impact on society, the economy and health care that the quarantine lasts this long.”

There’s an issue with the five-day quarantine update that staff need to be aware of, Stephens said — an issue that requires staff to take extra precautions.

“Delta is still there; all the variants are still there,” Stephens said. “We need people to understand that there is no way they can tell if they have Omicron within five days unless they have a specialist test, so it shouldn’t be ‘five days and you’re done: end of story. ‘

“If you test positive even after five days of self-isolation, you should still wear a mask, avoid being around high-risk people, and avoid places where you can’t wear a mask.”

Stephens explained that greater responsibility also applies when you are tempted to visit public facilities after the five-day quarantine ends.

“You are not even supposed to go to a restaurant and eat at the same table as your family during the second part of the five days, if you test positive. You can leave the house after the fifth day, but that does not mean that you you can walk around unprotected. You still have to watch yourself for the full 10 days,” Stephens said. “A lot of people don’t read that part.”

Those released after the five days are only supposed to travel after 10 days of quarantine. Another point of confusion is understanding that the five- or 10-day clock only starts the day after people are exposed, start having symptoms, or receive positive test results.

New versions of COVID have appeared on the horizon that pose challenges for scientists, including at least four different subvariants of Omicron, which are called Omicron Stealth.

The stealth subvariant, known as BA.2, spreads about 1.5 times faster than its parent and, according to CDC officials, has two specific deletions in the spike protein that allow it to bypass the defenses, including vaccinations and boosters. However, it does not seem to pose higher risks than Omicron.

Stephens said that because of all of this, Stephens said the WHO, CDC and health officials lump all subvariants under the umbrella of Omicron.

“Even though we have all four different subvariants, their severity and how they act are exactly the same,” Stephens said. “It still doesn’t kill people like the older variants; this is still a two-day incubation period; it’s still that most people are cleared by day 5.

“They decided, ‘You know, we’re just scaring each other, so let’s put them all together and call it ‘it.’ “”

The conclusion for Stephens remains the same with any disease.

“COVID, not COVID, Omicron, not Omicron: whatever. If you are sick, stay home,” Stephens said. “I don’t want the gastrointestinal virus and I don’t want the flu in my office either. And if you are sick and test negative, test again in a few days. You may have tested too soon.

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