“COVID-19 is here to stay”: CDC all but ends social distancing, basically declares the pandemic over

Source: Hot Air

In the past, CDC feints towards normalcy have reliably been reversed in short order due to changing circumstances. So expect a killer new variant to emerge any day now.

Some sort of COVID-monkeypox chimeric Frankenvirus, I’m thinking.

Turns out I was ahead of the curve yesterday in noting that America’s summer wave of COVID looks to have peaked and is now receding. Federal health bureaucrats have also concluded that the worst is behind us, enough so that we can toss out the six-foot rule and stop quarantining after close contact with an infected person.

Endemic COVID — the new normal — is here.

Today the CDC announced updated guidelines that tilt away from trying to protect groups and towards trying to protect the vulnerable. No more masks unless local transmission is high; no more rules distinguishing the vaccinated from the unvaccinated since practically everyone has immunity of some form and the new Omicron subvariants can get through anyway; no more mass testing of groups at school or in the workplace to try to catch asymptomatic cases. The feds have reached the “live with it” stage. “We know that COVID-19 is here to stay,” the CDC epidemiologist who drafted the new guidelines said today. “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection, and the many tools that we have available to protect people from severe illness and death, have put us in a different place.”

Be it noted on this day, in the year of our lord 2022, that it took this agency two and a half years to abandon the six-foot rule despite the fact that that rule (a) was never based on any actual science and (b) became idiotic the day scientists realized that the virus could linger in the air for hours in tiny aerosolized particles.

Anyway. The big winners from the new guidelines are kids, albeit two years too late.

Perhaps the biggest education-related change is the end of the recommendation that schools do routine daily testing, although that practice can be reinstated in certain situations during a surge in infections, officials said…

The new recommendations prioritize keeping children in school as much as possible, said Joseph Allen, director of Harvard University’s healthy building program. Previous isolation policies forced millions of students to stay home from school, he said, even though the virus poses a relatively low risk to young people.

“Entire classrooms of kids had to miss school if they were deemed a close contact,” he said. “The closed schools and learning disruption have been devastating.”

“That the CDC is shifting away from asymptomatic screening suggests an overall change in its approach to COVID,” writes Leana Wen. “Instead of applying across-the-board mitigation measures for everyone in an effort to reduce infection, it is acknowledging the continued prevalence of the coronavirus and encouraging people to choose the precautions right for them.” Right, we’re firmly in the “focus on your own personal risk” era of this given that community efforts to limit transmission of a hyper-contagious immune-evasive variant like BA.5 can only do so much.

In fact, the CDC’s new guidance on whether to isolate after you’ve been infected is so uncharacteristically chill that some doctors this afternoon are crying foul. Rather than advise people to stay away from others until they test negative on a rapid test, the agency says it’s okay to re-emerge after five days in isolation even if you’re still positive provided that your symptoms are improving and you wear a mask from days six to 10. “[T]he gaping hole in the CDC’s new document is the lack of acknowledgement that spread of Covid-19 may be happening among asymptomatic people after day 5 of illness,” writes Dr. Jeremy Faust. “It almost certainly is. The question is, to what extent? The CDC offers, to my read, zero data or insight on this. If they have data or modeling to support their new approach, I’d like to see it.” Other MDs also complained to the press that it’s silly not to ask people to test negative before leaving isolation in an age when rapid tests are plentiful.

“If anyone was still waiting for official permission from the nation’s top health officials to resume life as normal, it is here,” Robby Soave wrote at Reason about the new guidelines. Was anyone still waiting for permission, though? I think there are broadly two camps of Americans left on COVID, the hawks and the doves, and their personal guidelines look something like this. Hawks:

1. Wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces
2. Get at least two vaccine shots and maybe three (or four if you’re older)
3. Stay home if sick and don’t come out until feeling better

Doves:

1. Stay home if sick and consider not coming out until feeling better

There are outliers at both extremes, people who are still Lysol-ing their groceries and people who won’t quarantine even if they’re hacking up a lung, but I think the two main camps are basically as I’ve described. And neither one will be devoting so much as five minutes’ thought to the new official guidance.

I’ll leave you with this from Biden’s new COVID czar, who has his priorities in order.