CDC Drops Social Distancing, Quarantine Recommendations

Agency wants to move responsibility for staying healthy to individuals
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2022 7:41 PM CDT
CDC Eases COVID Guidance, Dropping the 6-Foot Rule
Signs on a wall remind students to keep 6 feet apart at Norris Middle School in Omaha, Neb., in July 2020.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

(Newser) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed several of its longstanding recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19, a change in direction that shifts responsibility from schools, businesses, and other institutions to individuals. The agency is no longer stressing the need for social distancing, dropping its pandemic-long recommendation to keep at least 6 feet from other people in public settings, CNN reports. "The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years," Greta Massetti, a CDC epidemiologist, said Thursday.

Quarantines for unvaccinated people who came into close contact with an infected person are gone, as well. Neither were popular among the public, and the changes reflect the current pandemic reality, per the New York Times, including Americans' habits during the outbreak. The CDC now will emphasize protecting the most vulnerable groups and worrying less about Americans who are unlikely to become seriously ill from the virus. That includes trying to keep students in school, per the AP. "We know that COVID-19 is here to stay," Massetti said. "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."

The revised guidance still includes precautions. Anyone who's been exposed to the virus but not tested positive should still wear a mask and take a test at least five days after the close contact, the agency says. Those who test positive should isolate immediately at home for five days. But the easing of recommendations and restrictions brings risks for the CDC, infectious disease experts said, per the Washington Post. If the nation is hit with a major wave of COVID cases in the fall or winter, or if another troublesome variant arises, the agency could face criticism about these changes. The CDC could find restoring previous, more restrictive, guidelines to be difficult. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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