The CDC released new guidelines for managing activities in relationship to COVID-19. The guidelines remove many of the burdens that have been placed on organizations in managing and monitoring COVID in their colleagues, employees, and students.
The overall effect is to protect those at risk due to medical issues while freeing up activities, workplaces, and schools so that they can return to more normal operation. This reflects the social need to resume activities as well as the fact that there are treatments available for “at risk” individuals.
Also important in this consideration is the fact that almost everyone at this point has some immunity to COVID-19, particularly those who are vaccinated. Those that aren’t vaccinated also have immunity due to infections which have been rampant during the multiple Omicron waves over the past nine months.
Specific changes outlined by the CDC include (modified from their website):
- Deleted the recommendation to “cohort” or only stay with a small group of known individuals
- Removed the requirement for 6-foot social distancing (with multiple caveats!)
- Eliminated recommendation for schools and businesses to conduct screening testing during high-risk activities during times of high COVID-19 Community Level or in response to an outbreak. Individuals are now suggested to test on their own.
- Cancelled the requirement to quarantine, except after exposure in high-risk settings with large numbers of attendees (concerts, weddings, large meetings).
- Removed information about “Test to Stay” at work after exposure or having schools test students. Also no longer require COVID positive students and staff to stay home for 5 days.
- Limited need to wear a mask in indoor situations during high levels of local infections
- Removed requirements for schools and businesses to manage cases and exposures and respond to outbreaks.
The CDC also now recommends testing with home kits for 2-3 days after a suspected exposure. This has been recommended by several experts and overcomes the false negative problem using these kits. With multiple testing home antigen kits can be as effective as Laboratory tests.
I think the most important aspect of these rules is the placement of responsibility for managing COVID-19 back on the individual where it belongs. Making private businesses and school systems public health enforcers was never a good idea and created several unwanted side effects. Particularly, schools often limited their activities to an extreme degree to avoid running afoul of requirements from the CDC and the state governments, and this caused hardships particularly for students and their parents.
As I said in my last post, it is clear now that closing schools really didn’t limit the number of infections or serious illnesses from COVID-19. At the same time, it led to huge problems from “at home learning” and caused other public health issues such as reductions in routine vaccines.
While the guidelines are somewhat simplified there are still points of confusion. In fact, the more one tries to clarify a particular action the more there are variables caused by levels of infection, specific situations, and personal health. Someone at the CDC needs to put together a simple diagram outlining the core recommendations for non-medical individuals.
Many have said these new recommendations reflect the CDC’s understanding of COVID-19 right now. That may be the true, but I would be remiss not to point out that several aspects of these changes remind me of some of the recommendations made by Scott Atlas two years ago.
One would love to analyze what would have happened if the new guidelines were implemented at earlier time points, such has before the initial Omicron infections last winter. This might give better insight into the value of these measures for future pandemics of respiratory disease.