In Washington The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its pandemic advice on the day that President Biden left for South Carolina on his post-infection vacation, signaling a clear departure from the state-of-emergency strategy that has been in effect, at least on the government level, since 2020.
The new guidelines, which were unveiled on Thursday afternoon by the CDC’s chief field epidemiologist Dr. Gretta Massetti, are the latest indication that the Biden administration is attempting to shift into a new post-pandemic mode that acknowledges the risks posed by the coronavirus while also giving people the freedom to choose how much of those risks should control their lives.
In a statement that was released along with the new guideline, Massetti claimed that it “acknowledges that the epidemic is not finished, but also helps us advance to a position when COVID-19 no longer adversely interrupts our everyday life.” The new guidance was praised by some and criticized by others.
The update notes that “screening testing of asymptomatic persons without known exposures” is no longer required, among other adjustments. Additionally, according to the revised advice, “case investigation and contact tracing should only be conducted in health care settings and certain high-risk congregate settings.”
These changes are intended to lessen some of the annoyance and disruption that individuals and institutions have endured while working to stop the coronavirus from spreading. The focus of the new strategy is on identifying and treating instances of severe sickness rather than eradicating all infections.
The test-to-stay policy from the previous year, which required that pupils in a classroom with a proven coronavirus exposure be tested often in order to maintain attending school, is repealed by the accompanying guidelines for schools.
A pupil at a New York City public school
The revised regulations still advise that COVID-19 patients isolate at home, but persons — including kids in schools — are no longer required to stay in a quarantined area if they have been exposed to a patient who tested positive but are not currently ill. As an alternative, those who have been exposed should have a diagnosis five days after their exposure, and they should wear a mask for ten days after that.
Continuing the story
The updated regulations published on Thursday state that quarantining persons who have been exposed to COVID-19 is no longer advised, with the exception of high-risk communal settings including jails, nursing homes, and homeless shelters. “People who were exposed to COVID-19 should follow advice to wear a well-fitting mask and be tested in schools and [early childhood education] settings, which are normally not considered high-risk congregate situations.”
After the first five days of isolation, those who are isolated due to coronavirus symptoms must continue to wear a mask for an additional five days.
However, the agency has stopped emphasizing physical distance, which was a common approach in the early stages of the epidemic but eventually proved divisive. The updated advice states that “physical distance is just one element of how to protect yourself and others.”
The CDC still recommends immunization as a first line of defense, but current regulations no longer treat vaccinated and unvaccinated patients differently. The effectiveness of vaccinations has decreased compared to initial expectations due to new coronavirus varieties’ capacity to circumvent the protections they provide. The coronavirus has infected so many individuals, however, that natural immunity seems to have acted as a protective barrier on its own.
Massetti admitted on Thursday that “high levels of community immunity owing to vaccination and prior infection, as well as the various methods that we have available to protect individuals from serious sickness and death, have placed us in a different situation.”
Early in 2022, a type of pre-epidemic normal started to return in several states under Democratic leadership, where prudence had been the rule for the majority of the first two years of the pandemic. The new CDC recommendations seem to recognise this fact and leave it up to the person to decide how many precautions to take.
Dr. Lucy McBride, a Washington internist and podcaster, commented in an email to Yahoo News, “I’m delighted the CDC is finally meeting the moment and understanding our wide health concerns beyond merely not getting COVID.” “It’s time to more fairly balance the negative effects of COVID and the negative effects of mitigating efforts, especially for children. COVID will endure. Living in a constant state of emergency is unsustainable, and it is also unnecessary in the age of universal access to treatments and immunizations.
On August 11, students assemble for the start of the school year in Anaheim, California. Jae C. Hong of AP
However, some expressed regret that a presidential administration that had pledged to “listen to the scientists” was shirking its duty to protect Americans who were weak due to disease, poverty, or other factors.
Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale public health specialist, texted the word “capitulation” to Yahoo News. He and others have emphasized that COVID-19 continues to claim hundreds of lives every day and that the epidemic has disproportionately affected persons of color and the poor.
According to Julia Raifman, a public health specialist at Boston University, “We need a vaccine and booster campaign and delivery.” In addition, she promoted “data-driven surge policies that switch on mask regulations early in bad surges to avert widespread health consequences, overcrowded hospitals, and disruptions at work and school.”
In July, Los Angeles County came very close to reintroducing a mask requirement but ultimately decided against it.
The White House did not reply to a request for comment from Yahoo News, but officials there have cited Biden’s personal experience with the coronavirus as proof that therapy and vaccine may easily lessen the severity of the illness. And they have noted—along with Massetti—that the constantly changing pathogen is unlikely to completely vanish, as some had earlier anticipated. Now, that optimism looks very foolish.
In July, travelers were seen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Getty Images/Nathan Howard
Dr. Ashish Jha, the head of the White House pandemic response team, said in a briefing last month that “this virus is going to be with us forever.”
The introduction of the new regulations coincides with the start of the new school year and the return to work of many white-collar professionals. At the same time, restaurants, sports arenas, and aircraft are all full.
The least amount of interruption to work, education, and other parts of life must be the objective, medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said in an email to Yahoo News. Additionally, it recognizes that individuals now have varying degrees of risk aversion and risk tolerance and want the ability to choose appropriate risk-reduction strategies.
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