New CDC Guidelines – Based on Science or the Economy?

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Nearly a month ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out new guidelines that halved the isolation time needed after a positive Covid test or exposure. Previously recommending a 10-day quarantine, the CDC now recommends a quarantine of only five days for mild or asymptomatic cases, followed by five days of strict mask usage. Or, if a quarantine is not possible, ten days of strict mask usage for those who have been exposed. Plus, testing is not required to re-enter work or school. They claim these changes are based on science.

However, many members of the medical community have been questioning the validity of the CDC’s so-called science. For one, the American Medical Association (AMA), the largest organization of physicians in the country, criticized the new guidelines for being “not only confusing, but…risking further spread of the virus.” In their press release, they cite the CDC’s own data that “31 percent of people remain infectious 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test,” meaning “potentially hundreds of thousands of people…could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC’s new guidance.”

Healthcare workers have also been condemning this new decision. On January 13, nurses across the country held rallies calling for the CDC to strengthen, not weaken, isolation guidelines. The New York State Nurses Association also put out a statement claiming the guidelines are “based not on science, but on supplies and economic consideration.”

Yet this past month saw Covid cases peak higher than even last winter, putting huge strains on hospitals and the healthcare workers that keep them running. Which begs the question – were the guidelines ever meant to most safely protect the population, or were they meant to ensure essential workers could go back to work even sooner?

Given that this past surge has seen record numbers of healthcare workers catching Covid, it’s clear the only logic the CDC is using to loosen guidelines and potentially expose more people to the virus is economic, not scientific.