CDC’s new COVID-19 guidelines once again place profits above people

By Sophie Foster

Opinion Editor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking an unorthodox approach to addressing the current high levels of respiratory illness nationwide: decreasing protections and eliminating isolation periods designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to ABC News, “half of all states are seeing high levels of respiratory virus activity.” In particular, weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations have seen an uptick, landing at more than 21,000. 

Meanwhile, the CDC recently indicated the intent to lessen restrictions on those infected with COVID-19 come spring. The new policy suggests recommendations will shift to encourage individuals to cease isolation once they have gone a full 24 hours without a fever and have symptoms that are mild or improving, according to CNN.

The agency maintained since 2021 that people should isolate for a minimum of five days after testing positive, and should then continue to mask around others for an extended period of time afterward, at minimum until testing negative or becoming asymptomatic.

According to CNN, these potential updates would align COVID-19 isolation guidelines with those of other respiratory viruses like influenza. States such as California and Oregon already turned away from the CDC’s standing guidelines, not enforcing a specific interval during which those who test positive should isolate or requiring the asymptomatic to go into isolation at all.

Both these diverging states and the CDC itself argue that alignment with other infectious diseases’ standards reflects what has increasingly become the reality for COVID-19: many infected with the virus already choose not to isolate, and the looming threat of severe illness has been substantially minimized thanks to the combination of vaccination, prior infections, and antiviral treatments, according to The Washington Post.

This, however, does not paint an accurate portrait of COVID-19 and its lasting impact. While much is known of illnesses like the flu, there remains significant uncertainty about the long-term complications and repercussions of COVID-19 infection. “Long COVID” is a real and hard-to-define threat, and doctors and scientists are still unsure of how previous COVID-19 infection may manifest in the average human body over the course of several years.

It is worth, for example, looking to the affiliation of chicken pox with shingles, which are connected to one another but nonetheless divided by a typical space of several decades between infection with chicken pox and illness from shingles.

Additionally, even beyond long-term possibilities, COVID-19 today hospitalizes and kills at a much higher rate than sister illnesses like the flu.

Another alarming element of this impending switch is the concern it presents to the lives of the medically vulnerable and immunocompromised, who are severely and disproportionately harmed by COVID-19 infection regardless of vaccination status or personal protective wellness habits.

While there is much that is still unknown of COVID-19, what is certainly known is that one does not cease being contagious a single day after testing positive. If coworkers and classmates are expected to return to the workplace while still actively contagious, those most at risk will see a marked increase in said risk.

Very few policies even remain as safeguards for these individuals. Guaranteed paid leave for employees with COVID-19 has been dropped in every state except New York, which is considering doing away with it as well this summer, according to The Washington Post.

The bare fact of the matter is that the science surrounding transmission has not changed. Someone infected with COVID-19 can still be infectious beyond a five day period. Those who are asymptomatic or fever-free can still spread the virus. Vaccination and prior infection do not prevent future illness from the disease.

According to The Washington Post, the biggest downside of lengthy isolation is missing work and school. This mindset is both dangerous and intrinsically immoral, implying it is more important that people deliver capitalistic output rather than practice genuine care for their community and monitor their own health responsibly and cautiously.

COVID-19 has not gone anywhere or stopped causing lasting harm. It is tremendously risky and unsafe to pretend that it has.

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