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Major recommendations on how to keep areas safe from increased cases of COVID

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

Health and safety experts everywhere are abuzz with the new guidance just dropped by the CDC regarding schools and workplaces. The CDC revamped and reconfigured major recommendations on how to keep these areas safe from increased cases of COVID. Unfortunately, some of these recommendations are ambiguous and self-contradictory.

Dr. Soumi Eachempati, a former Surgery and Public Health professor and Co-Founder of CLEARED4 answers some of the questions about the important points and potential pitfalls of this guidance.

What does the update on 8/12/2022 address?

The new guidance addresses safety precautions before infections, what to do after exposure, what to do after infection.

What does the guidance specify about these areas?

The main point is relaxation of quarantine protocols. Being exposed to COVID does not need quarantine now. Individuals should wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and test for COVID on day 5. They can remove masks on day 10 unless they test positive or develop symptoms. No distinction should be made for those who are unvaccinated compared to those who are vaccinated. In most community settings, the CDC no longer recommends screening asymptomatic people who have not been exposed. This includes schools, workplaces, and day-care centers.

What are the differences?

The similar treatment of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals after exposure is also new. Distancing is also de-emphasized now.

What is the reaction?

Reaction is mixed from “This has gone too far” to “We all should be like Florida or Sweden” and “Let’s eliminate the CDC.”

What else are people saying?

The messaging and timing both seem very wrong. Treating vaccinated individuals, the same as unvaccinated suggests that vaccinations do not confer any protect when that is clearly incorrect. The CDC recommends generally less strict protocols with daily US cases over 100, 000 cases per day and almost 500 deaths. Additionally, schools are starting, and the flu season is almost here so diminishing precautions appears to augment the risk for many more cases soon.

What are the biggest problems?

The new guidance does not account for secondary infections, the potential for large outbreaks, and possible school or workforce closures. The guidance also does not address the potential for large numbers of COVID cases and the massive morbidity from Long COVID that could ensue.

How does this affect schools?

The guidance specifically maintained that those individuals who were exposed do not need testing. Many schools used the very successful system of “test-to-stay” to identify asymptomatic infections. This process kept many individuals safe including teachers, other students, and perhaps most importantly, the close contacts of infected students who may have been elderly or vulnerable. Since schools could carry such a large potential for infections to spread, the effect of taking away this valuable policy could result in school closure, faculty infections, and countless more cases or deaths from COVID. These secondary infections are very important to consider in planning any public health policy.

What about workplaces?

Decreasing surveillance for asymptomatic infections without a full understanding of individual, community, or business risk could be devastating for businesses. Mass outbreaks could occur for those working in proximity, key personnel could become infected, and liability or health insurance costs could skyrocket.

What does it not address?

It does not give specific guidance of when to perform surveillance testing and leaves a great deal up to individuals and groups. In short, everyone’s job just got harder to monitor themselves and those for whom they are responsible.

What other problems did this guidance create?

Due to the tone that less intervention is needed to detect and monitor COVID, people may wrongly assume that the pandemic is over and may be even less likely to take standard precautions.

What is the overall conclusion of how everyone should respond to this new guidance?

Organizations, schools, and businesses will have more responsibility to create the best safety precautions for their themselves. They will be the ones bearing the burden of outbreaks, closures, and threats of output failure. A strong understanding of the best precautions for their own situation and the best monitoring strategy to serve their own needs will allow them to navigate the next phase of the pandemic in the most successful way possible.

Dr. Soumi Eachempati talks about the ramifications of the new guidelines and the shifting of responsibility from organizations and institutions to individuals in this webinar. Watch now.

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