Tell the CDC to reverse their isolation policy!

The CDC has changed its isolation policy, and the new policy does not follow the science and will contribute to higher rates of COVID-19 infection, acute illness, Long COVID, and death. In its new policy, the CDC has combined its guidance for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV into a single "pan-respiratory guidance," even though the diseases and their impacts are different. The new "Respiratory Virus Guidance" only requires symptomatic people to isolate until fever-free for 24 hours and other symptoms are improving and then people "can go back to [their] normal activities," and it does not require asymptomatic people to isolate at all. This is based on Oregon's bad isolation policy from last May that was most likely put in place so students didn't have to stay home for five days, a policy which California put in place in January.

The CDC's new policy does NOT require or strongly recommend for COVID-positive people who stop isolating to wear a mask, and it also shortens the potential length of time people leaving isolation may take precautions. The CDC says to "take added precaution" for five days after leaving isolation; the ideas for precautions are presented as an either/or list, and masking is the third item mentioned, listed behind hygiene (although handwashing is not very protective against COVID-19). The previous CDC guidance said that people should mask for 10 days, but with the new policy, if someone stops isolating on the third day, they'd only mask until the eighth day - if they choose to mask as a precaution - rather than the previous ten.

The new CDC policy is composed of "core prevention strategies" and "additional prevention strategies." Despite being some of the main tools for preventing infection, masking and testing for your own health are NOT included as core prevention strategies; they are listed as "an additional prevention strategy that you can choose to further protect yourself and others." The new guidance seems to downplay avoiding COVID infection for the general public, but it actually emphasizes preventing COVID-19 infections for high-risk groups. This puts a further increased burden on high-risk people to protect themselves from COVID-19. The CDC Director has suggested that "the folks who are more vulnerable were top of mind when we did this [new policy]," which is clearly not the case.

In addition, it appears that the CDC has narrowed who it describes as high-risk for COVID-19 in its guidance. The new respiratory guidance highlights "specific considerations for people who are at higher risk for severe illness," who are described as older adults, young children, people with weakened immune systems, people with disabilities, and pregnant people. The CDC did not migrate over the list of high-risk conditions for COVID-19 to the new respiratory guidance, and the CDC high risk conditions page now says it may be out of date and will be updated (the same as many other COVID-19 pages at this time). This makes it more difficult for people looking at CDC guidance to identify that they have a high-risk condition, and it also makes it harder for individuals to provide documentation that they are high-risk.

The CDC has said that Oregon and California haven't seen a disproportionate increase from their policies; however, data collection has been largely dismantled, and the Oregon change was made quietly - a recent article found that 4 out of 5 of Oregonians asked didn't know about Oregon's isolation policy change, so it's not something that was regularly being practiced. California's change was made at the height of the winter respiratory season, when numbers naturally would soon be decreasing.

Using a symptoms-based approach does not work with a virus like COVID-19 where it's known to have a large number of people who are asymptomatic yet infectious. Disabled people, people of color, older individuals, and everyone who is high-risk have an equal right to access public spaces without an increased risk of severe outcomes. This policy will also lead to increased rates of Long COVID. The CDC is shirking their responsibility for public health protections.

This letter will allow you to write to officials at the CDC. Additionally, you can also use this link to write to officials in your state and ask them to put in place a more protective isolation policy than the CDC's.

[A note: this letter previously was for both the CDC and an individual's state and has been updated to reflect the new CDC isolation policy. If you've previously submitted it, you can do so again with this new ask.]

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