The Center for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its Coronavirus social distancing recommendations, shifting the responsibility of reducing viral spread away from institutions and onto individuals.
The nation’s public health agency scrapped its “six-foot” social distancing guidance. It also does not require screening of asymptomatic people without known exposure in community settings, such as K-12 schools. COVID-19 quarantine procedures are also relaxed, but the agency urges individuals to continue practicing precautionary measures to protect themselves and the most vulnerable within communities.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, Ph.D., MPH, MMWR author. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
According to the agency, the changing guidance focus on sustainable measures to reduce medically significant illness, to minimize strain on the health care system while reducing barriers to social, educational, and economic activity. The updated guidance comes after the Food and Drug Administration updated its COVID-19 testing recommendations.
The new guidance regarding screening in community settings may impact schools and other institutions. At a high COVID-19 Community Level, K-12 schools and ECE programs can consider implementing screening testing for students and staff for high-risk activities.
“When considering whether and where to implement screening testing of asymptomatic people with no known exposure, public health officials might consider prioritizing high-risk congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities, and workplace settings that include congregate housing with limited access to medical care,” the CDC wrote in the report.
Updated guidance also relaxes the CDC’s social isolation protocols. Unvaccinated individuals are no longer advised to undergo a five-day quarantine if they have not tested positive for the virus or shown symptoms.
People who test positive are advised to continue social isolation for five days. The agency said that after the fifth day if a COVID-19-positive individual is fever free for 24 hours without medication and with improving symptoms isolation may end.
Individuals who experienced moderate illness are advised to isolate themselves for 10 days, and those who endured severe illness must consult with a doctor before ending isolation. Regardless of illness severity, the agency advices the usage of high-quality masks for at least 10 days.
Regardless of when social isolation ends, the CDC urges those infected by the virus to avoid those at high risk or until 11 days.
According to the agency, the updated guidance is intended to apply to community settings.
“In the coming weeks CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel, with today’s update,” the CDC wrote in a statement.