CDC unveils streamlined COVID-19 guidance

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today updated its COVID-19 guidance, which deemphasizes distancing measures and focuses on protecting the most vulnerable groups.

The CDC said it simplified the guidance now that there are tools for reducing the severity of the disease and cutting the number of hospitalizations and deaths. The nation is in the midst of ongoing elevated activity from the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, with deaths that have slowly trended upward over the past week.

Easing disruptions, moving ahead with more tools and knowledge

Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH, senior scientist at the CDC, said, "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." She also emphasized that health officials have a better understanding of how to protect people, such as wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improving ventilation.

Massetti is one of the authors who published a summary of the guidance today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

"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," Massetti said.

Simplified measures for contacts, infected people

One of the biggest changes is quarantine guidance for people exposed to the virus. Instead of quarantining, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask, watching for symptoms for 10 days, and getting tested on the fifth day.

People who are mildly sick with COVID-19 should still isolate for at least 5 days while wearing a high-quality mask. After isolating, people who are recovering should avoid contact with vulnerable people for 11 days.

The CDC recommends longer isolation periods for people with moderate and severe illness.

Another major change is that the CDC no longer recommends screening asymptomatic people who don't have known exposures.

The agency urged people to consider their risks in particular settings, keeping in mind community transmission levels and ventilation, when gauging needed distancing measures.

New guidance also targets schools

In updated guidance for schools and childcare settings, the CDC removed the recommendation to cohort students and to conduct screening tests, except when community levels are high or in response to outbreaks. It also removed the quarantine recommendation, except for in high-risk congregate settings.

Also, the CDC removed information about test-to-stay, which was originally designed to allow school-linked close contacts who aren't fully vaccinated to attend school during quarantine.

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