Regardless of how done you are with COVID, COVID isn’t necessarily done with you.
However, you wouldn’t know that from the new CDC guidelines, which have triggered a social media outcry among doctors and other public health experts who say that the changes could lead to even more infections and cases of potentially disabling long COVID.
On Wednesday, the CDC announced a major overhaul of the agency after an in-depth analysis showed the COVID response was “confusing and overwhelming,” according to the New York Times.
An external review suggested that the CDC’s COVID efforts were being hampered by its focus on publishing scientific studies instead of urgent action and will be reorganized to give promotions based on public health efforts, not study publications. Officials will also remain in key positions for at least six months to reduce confusion and delays, rather than rotate out after a few months.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
Some of the major guidance updates released last week include:
- People who have been exposed to COVID, regardless of vaccination status, no longer have to quarantine if they aren’t showing symptoms, including in schools.
- Infected people who choose to use rapid tests can end their isolation after day five, even if they still test positive, if symptoms are improving.
- COVID screening tests used to catch asymptomatic infections are no longer recommended “in most community settings.”
- People are no longer recommended to stay 6 feet away from others to avoid infection.
The changes to the CDC’s recommendations, which were released on Aug. 11, come at a time when more than 400 people continue to die from the disease every day. (A polite reminder that we are simultaneously battling a monkeypox outbreak and serious polio threat, in addition to the COVID pandemic.)
The CDC says it’s OK to relax COVID-prevention measures given that there are vaccines, boosters, and treatments that reduce the likelihood that people will develop severe disease and die compared to earlier in the pandemic. “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,” the agency said in a news release last week.
Experts beg to differ. Some say the CDC’s move reflects what Americans want and are already doing, but that the virus couldn’t care less about what we prefer.