On July 20, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) issued new recommendations for a return to work. Initially it recommended that viral tests be used to determine whether an employee is safe to return to work. Now it recommends looking at symptoms to decide when employees can return to work. Why this change from a test-based return to a symptoms-based return, when we know that not all infected individuals who spread the virus show symptoms?
For those who test positive for COVID-19, the CDC lessened the amount of time before they can stop isolating at home (and therefore get back to work). The number of days home isolation is required went from 14 days to 10 days, and the number of hours that must have passed since the last fever subsided went from 72 to 24 hours. Initially it specifically said respiratory symptoms must have improved, but now the CDC has removed respiratory from the list of symptoms that must have improved (again, meaning more people will qualify to go back to work sooner).
Again, why are they doing this?
The CDC is the main federal agency issuing recommendations and guidelines regarding COVID-19 to the U.S. government, business, and other institutions. It is not neutral: it serves the major institutions of U.S. capitalism. That is why its recommendations have to be taken with a grain of salt, and it’s also why guidelines change according to the political objectives of the U.S. ruling class – the banks and corporations.
Since it is increasingly clear that the economic crisis triggered by shelter-in-place and other safety measures is extremely severe, the capitalists are afraid of the hit that their economic system is taking, with production and consumption stalling, the economy shrinking, and profits declining.
Since the U.S. ruling class wants to preserve profits whatever the cost to life, there is a determined push from the government to get people back to work regardless of the danger. This is what is behind the murderous push to reopen schools, (we have seen horrible outbreaks in other countries that opened before the virus was eliminated), as well as the new CDC recommendations of July 20.
A positive change for working people is that the CDC has now admitted that “person-to-person” spread of COVID-19 also happens through talking or raising one’s voice, such as when shouting, chanting, or singing – not just via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, as they had thought before. This is why cloth face-coverings in public settings, especially when social distancing measures are difficult or impossible to maintain, are so important.
Although the CDC has many competent scientists, and generates useful information, its guidelines have to be seen through the lens of the capitalist-owned society we live in. It will not contradict the interests of the system it serves. A truly trustworthy pandemic response and guidelines cannot come from a capitalist government and its agencies. That will only come from a government created by and for working people and the poor.