CDC Relaxes Quarantine, Distancing Requirements for Covid!
The nation’s top public health agency relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.
The changes come more than two and a half years after the pandemic began. They are based on the fact that about 95% of Americans 16 and older have some level of immunity, either because they were vaccinated or because they got sick.
“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years,” said the CDC’s Greta Massetti, an author of the guidelines.
Social distance and other once-common safety measures have been outlawed in many parts of the country for a long time. However, some of the changes could be especially important for schools, which are starting back up this month in many parts of the country.
Perhaps the biggest education-related change is the end of the recommendation that schools do routine daily testing, although that practice can be reinstated in certain situations during a surge in infections, officials said.
The CDC also got rid of a “test-to-stay” recommendation, which said that students who were exposed to COVID-19 could keep going to school instead of staying home in quarantine. Since there was no longer a suggestion to put something in quarantine, the option to test also went away.
Masks are still only recommended in places where the risk of spreading the disease is high or when a person is at a high risk of getting very sick.
Even before the new advice came out, school districts across the U.S. have been taking less precaution with COVID-19 in recent weeks. Some people have said that school will go back to how it was before the pandemic.
When school starts back up this fall, most districts will let students choose whether or not to wear masks, and some of the largest districts in the country have reduced or eliminated COVID-19 testing requirements.
The Los Angeles school district said last week that weekly COVID-19 tests will no longer be given in public schools. Instead, families will be able to take tests at home. Wake County, North Carolina, schools also stopped giving tests every week.
Some people have left test-to-stay programs because they were too hard to run when the omicron variant was in high demand last school year.
One of the biggest teacher unions in the country, the American Federation of Teachers, said it was glad to hear about the new rules.
“Every educator and every parent starts every school year with great hope, and this year even more so,” President Randi Weingarten said. “After two years of uncertainty and disruption, we need as normal a year as possible so we can focus like a laser on what kids need.”
Joseph Allen, who is in charge of Harvard University’s healthy building program, said that the new recommendations try to keep kids in school as much as possible. He said that previous isolation policies kept millions of students from going to school, even though the virus isn’t that dangerous to young people.
“If they were considered close contacts, whole classrooms of kids had to miss school,” he said. “The closed schools and disruptions to learning have been terrible.”
Others say the CDC is going too far in relaxing its guidelines.
Anne Sosin, a public health researcher at Dartmouth College, said that letting students go back to school five days after getting sick without proof of a negative COVID-19 test could cause outbreaks in schools. If a lot of teachers get sick, this could mean that schools have to close for a while, which is a problem that some schools had last year.
“We all want a stable school year, but hoping for it is not the way to get it,” she said. “If we want our schools to get back to normal, we have to put money into making that happen. We can’t just drop everything like we’re seeing all over the country.”
This summer, the average number of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported has been around 100,000 cases a day and between 300 and 400 deaths.
The CDC previously said that if people who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations come into close contact with a person who tests positive, they should stay home for at least five days. Now the agency says quarantining at home is not necessary, but it urges those people to wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested after five.
The agency continues to say that people who test positive should isolate from others for at least five days, regardless of whether they were vaccinated. CDC officials advise that people can end isolation if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication and they are without symptoms or the symptoms are improving.
Also on Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration changed its advice about how often people who have been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested.
Previously, the FDA had advised taking two rapid antigen tests over two or three days to rule out infection. Now the agency recommends three tests.
FDA officials said the change was made because new studies show that the old protocol could miss too many infections and lead to people spreading the coronavirus, especially if they don’t have any symptoms.
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