The country’s top public health agency relaxed COVID-19 guidelines on Thursday, dropping recommendations for Americans to isolate themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says people no longer need to stay at least six feet away from others.
More than two-and-a-half years after the pandemic began, the shift is based on the recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans over the age of 16 have acquired some degree of immunity through vaccination or infection, agency officials said. said the person. Said.
“The current situation with this pandemic is very different from what it was in the last two years,” said CDC’s Greta Masetti, author of the guidelines.
CDC’s recommendations apply to everyone in the United States, but the changes can be especially important for schools. Schools will resume classes in many parts of the country this month.
Perhaps the biggest change related to education is the end of the recommendation that schools conduct regular daily inspections.
The CDC also withdrew its “test-to-stay” recommendation, which said students exposed to COVID-19 could be tested regularly instead of isolating at home to keep them in school. Since the quarantine recommendation is gone, so is the inspection option.
Masks continue to be recommended only in areas where community transmission is considered high or where the risk of severe illness is considered high.
School districts across the United States have scaled back COVID-19 precautions in recent weeks, even before the latest guidance was issued. Some have promised a return to pre-pandemic schooling.
Masks will be an option in most school districts when classes resume this fall. And some of the country’s largest school districts have reduced or eliminated COVID-19 testing requirements.
Public schools in Los Angeles will end weekly COVID-19 tests and instead make at-home testing available to families, the school district announced last week. Schools in Wake County, North Carolina have also canceled weekly tests.
Some have walked away from the test-to-stay program that spiraled out of control during last year’s proliferation of omicron variants.
The National Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, said it welcomed the guidance.
“Every educator and parent enters the school year with high hopes, and even more so this year,” said Chancellor Randy Weingarten. “After two years of uncertainty and confusion, we need a year as normal as possible so that we can focus like a laser on what our children need.”
Joseph Allen, director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard University, said the new recommendations prioritize keeping children in school as much as possible. He said millions of students were forced out of school, despite the relatively low risk it poses to young people.
“An entire classroom of children had to be absent from school if they were considered close contacts,” he said. “The closed schools and the disruption to learning are devastating.”
Others say the CDC has gone too far in easing guidelines.
Ann Soshin, a public health researcher at Dartmouth College, said allowing students to return to school five days after being infected without having to prove a negative COVID-19 test could lead to an outbreak in school. This could lead to the temporary closure of entire schools if teachers fall ill in large numbers, a dilemma some schools faced last year.
“We all want a stable school year, but wishful thinking is not the strategy for getting there.” We need to invest in the conditions for it, rather than haphazardly canceling it.”
The average number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths remained relatively flat this summer, at around 100,000 cases and 300 to 400 deaths per day.
The CDC previously said that people who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 and have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive should stay home for at least five days. Currently, authorities say no home isolation is required, but they recommend that he wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested after five days.
Officials continue to say that anyone who tests positive, whether vaccinated or not, must be isolated from others for at least five days. People have been advised that if they have had no fever for 24 hours and have no symptoms or their symptoms have improved, they can end the isolation.