With COVID-19 ‘here to stay,’ CDC loosens most guidelines

The focus now is on vaccination and treatment instead of prevention.
KN95 mask on dark background.
Vaccinated people exposed to COVID-19 no longer have to quarantine. Unsplash

Yesterday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a loosening of its COVID-19 guidelines. The new guidance moves further away from the nationwide lockdown strategies of the past and focuses more on individual actions. 

“We know that Covid-19 is here to stay,” CDC epidemiologist Greta Massetti said in a news briefing on Thursday. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools that we have available to protect people from severe illness and death, have put us in a different place.”

One of the biggest changes in this update is that schools and businesses no longer have to sceen non-symptomatic students and employees. This can end the controversial test-to-stay policies implemented by school districts nationwide. Instead, the CDC recommends that students exposed to COVID-19 could test regularly, as opposed to quarantining at home, to keep attending school in person. 

Additionally, early COVID prevention and social distancing standards like the six-feet apart rule is no longer required.

[Related: The ultimate guide to reusing and buying N95 masks.]

Quarantine rules for adults have also changed—those exposed COVID-19 are no longer expected to quarantine. Instead, it is recommended that they wear a high-quality mask around others for 10 days.

Unvaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are recommended to follow the same quarantining procedures as those who are up to date on vaccines (quarantining for five days and wearing a high-quality mask around others for 10).

The revised guidance follows the update from December 2021 that shortened the quarantine guidelines from 10 days to five. The agency is still recommending that individuals who test positive for the virus stay home for five days, keep away from others, and wear a high-quality mask for five days after leaving isolation.

These new guidelines underline the CDC’s emphasis on vaccination and treatment options, instead of preventing individual cases. 

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Massetti in a press release. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation.  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.”

Since arriving in the United States in 2020, COVID-19 has killed more than one million people. 42,000 people are hospitalized with the virus and the daily death toll is close to 500 currently, according to numbers from the Washington Post. These new rules may be troublesome for future outbreaks. Another surge of cases this fall and winter is entirely possible, a new variant could emerge at any time, which could call these new guidelines into question