What to make of the CDC’s self-contradictory guidance for individuals testing positive for Covid-19?
Updated: Aug 15, 2021
On August 3, 2020 the CDC appeared to be initiating a new direction for Covid-19 treatment by issuing a statement that those individuals “who have tested positive for Covid-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again.”
This guidance (rightfully) was interpreted by many as indicating that individuals who recently tested positive for Covid-19 could work, travel, or even care for infected Covid-19 patients as long as they did not manifest symptoms of Covid-19. To take this guidance a step further, some even considered this statement to mean that these individuals were essentially “immune” from spreading Covid-19 and could function normally in society without the need for symptom monitoring, distancing, or even masking.
That would have been terrific news for the unfortunate, recently afflicted Covid-19 individuals.
Except that CDC just changed this statement.
In a follow-up update that was thinly disguised backpedaling, the CDC issued a new statement of August 14, 2020 which maintained that their original statement of August 3, 2020 did “not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection.”
Simply stated, the CDC issued a poorly phrased statement on reinfection after recent Covid-19 infection and then retracted it with another poorly constructed statement. The retraction failed to give clear guidance for recently infected Covid-19 patients regarding likelihood of reinfection and transmission. Additionally, the “update” failed to give useful guidance on what precautions these individuals should be expected to display. The absence of such clarity in the statement gives guidance in itself: there should be no changes regarding any of these issues for those with recent Covid-19 infection.
On a related note, the CDC has not given specific guidance at all for those with positive antibodies either. Therefore, those involved with reopening schools, workplaces, offices, and factories, should be treating individuals with recent Covid-19 infections or antibodies on serology no differently than anyone else. These individuals should be given similar symptom monitoring and mask/distancing precautions as any other individuals with no previous infection or antibodies for Covid-19.
In short, businesses will have to wait for more information from the appropriate channels to change their current practices regarding those with recent Covid-19 infections. Hopefully, the next “update” in this realm will actually be valuable and not simply confusing.