Tired of COVID-19 precautions? So is the CDC, apparently.
As outlined in a Thursday press release, the ostensibly disease-preventing body is promoting no longer requiring that folks exposed to the virus self-quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. Workers and students are only asked to wear a "high-quality" mask for ten days, and to test for the virus on day five. Oh, and pretty much no more contact-tracing, either — only in rare cases, as per the "streamlined" guidelines. Vaccines are still encouraged, including all future boosters.
These are very surprising changes, especially given that the newest variant, BA.5 — which has had high reinfection rates — hasn't even been around for that long yet, while the yet-to-be-explained phenomenon of long COVID continues to upend the lives of many. Also missing from the new guidelines is even the suggestion that people wear masks in crowded indoor spaces or transportation hubs.
Is it just us, or does this all seem pretty stupid, even by American standards? Obviously folks have to move on with their lives, but commonsense precautions — like staying home when you're testing positive — would almost certainly save lives. Remember, this virus is still killing almost 500 Americans every single day.
So really, what's changed? Could President Joe Biden's valiant defeat of the viral bug have scared COVID back into the shadow realm from whence it came? Between the ongoing Monkeypox outbreak and polio running rampant in New York sewage, do public health authorities simply have too much new (or new-old) disease on their plate?
"We know that COVID-19 is here to stay," CDC epidemiologist Greta Massetti said at a Thursday news briefing, according to The New York Times. "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."
As the NYT reports, some experts see the "streamlined" guidelines — which appear to be much less focused on preventing the spread of the disease, and much more focused on preventing severe illness — as an exciting sign of forward movement.
"I think this a welcome change," Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the NYT. "It actually shows how far we've come."
Other experts, however, believe that the CDC is more or less just submitting to public pressure.
"I think [the CDC is] attempting to meet up with the reality that everyone in the public is pretty much done with this pandemic," Michael T. Osterholm, infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told the NYT.
Of course, Twitter users tapped in to share their thoughts on the new guidelines.
"Please continue to stay 6 feet away from me," read one exceedingly blunt post. "I do not care what the CDC says."
"It appears that the Center for Disease has given up on Control and Prevention," mused another.
"What's incredible is that the CDC makes these extraordinarily consequential decisions with zero public input, zero transparency and virtually no explanation of their decision-making process," said another, "or the reasoning they employed to balance competing interests and priorities."
Yes, COVID restrictions have been wildly inconvenient. But the CDC exists for a reason, and to take such a sharp turn on pandemic protocols, so very suddenly, just feels wrong. And ultimately, inconvenience is better than, you know, dying — or, for that matter, hurting someone else.
READ MORE: CDC Eases Covid Guidelines, Noting Virus Is 'Here to Stay' [The New York Times]
More on concerning illnesses: Biden Admin Declares Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency