CLEVELAND — For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control has streamlined and loosened up its COVID19 guidelines, highlighting the importance of personal responsibility and risk.
It’s an acknowledgment that while the pandemic is not over, coronavirus is something that we are going to have to learn to live with.
“It’s just that we have tools to fight it. We have vaccines that are very effective. We have therapeutics there, monoclonal antibodies,” said Donna Skoda, the director of Summit County Public Health.
The agency now changing its recommendation for those exposed to the virus, no matter vaccination status, saying no need to quarantine. Though, still advising mask wearing for 10 days and testing on day 5.
Mark Cameron, an associate professor for Case Western Reserve University and an infectious disease researcher, said the change to quarantine guidelines concerns him.
“In my opinion, that’s probably too late,” he said. “When somebody is sick with COVID and this is the first time that they take precautions in terms of, you know, staying at home for 5 days and putting on a mask, then it's quite likely that you've also been part of the transmission chain to spread it to someone who is at more risk than yourself for severe COVID.”
The CDC also loosening guidelines on the need to social distance, contact trace and de-emphasizing the need for testing in schools.
“At the end of the school year, last year, it was becoming less and less effective as a strategy, so it doesn’t surprise me,” said Skoda. “The important thing is, is that if your child is sick, that you keep them out of school.”
But she said Thursday’s recommendations didn’t put emphasis on wearing masks indoors.
“It’s pretty concerning,” said Skoda. “ I worry that once you loosen restrictions, it's really hard to go back and if we do get a really bad flu season or we do get more really a COVID variant that isn't this kind, that we will have to go back to some of those more aggressive measures.”
The CDC is still pressing taking precautions, but to do it based on your own risk factors.
“If you have co-morbidities, if you have underlying health conditions, if you had an organ transplant, if your immune-compromised, if you take care of elderly parents, if you visit nursing homes, if you go into congregate living sites, that increases your risk of spreading disease,” said Skoda.
Cameron is concerned that people don’t always know how the virus will affect them, no matter the risk factors.
“We’ve seen time and time again that people can be wrong and the virus can affect people in ways that they did not expect,” he said. “Those severe infections and fatalities are still occurring and that is still a problem.”
But Skoda said the CDC’s report is a sign that COVID19 is here to stay, and believes overall it signifies just how far we’ve come since 2020.
“These treatments work. You might get sick but the best thing you can do is protect yourself with the vaccine, but we know how to treat it now so we are feeling better about easing the restrictions,” she said.
To read CDC’s newest COVID19 guidelines, click here.