A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in June....

A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in June. One health expert cited vaccinations and antivirals as helping to significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID illness. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Frederic J. Brown

Although experts disagree whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s relaxation of COVID-19 guidelines is wise, they agree that the agency is increasingly irrelevant to how most Americans live with the disease.

“I don’t think they matter at all,” public health psychologist Perry Halkitis said Friday of the new CDC recommendations.

“I think people have stopped paying attention,” said Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey.

The CDC Thursday dropped a recommendation to quarantine at home after being in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Instead, the agency recommends wearing a high-quality mask for 10 days and testing for the coronavirus five days after exposure. The agency still recommends self-isolating for at least five days after testing positive.

The CDC also stopped recommending that people in general stay at least 6 feet away from others. 

Dr. David Hirschwerk, medical director of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and an infectious disease expert, said the CDC’s changes are “sensible.”

“It’s an acknowledgment that we’re at a different stage in the pandemic and that we certainly have tools through vaccination and antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to significantly reduce the risk of severe illness,” he said.

Hirschwerk said people are more likely to follow guidelines if they “evolve, as the pandemic has evolved.”

Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said the CDC was responding to the public’s increasingly blasé attitude toward taking COVID-19 precautions.

“They're tired of hearing about it, they're tired of dealing with it,” she said of the public. “I think there are a lot of people who unless they're feeling very, very badly, are not even bothering to test anymore. And even if they are, if they're feeling better after a day or so, it's very likely that they are not isolating.”

The CDC may believe it is dealing with “the reality that exists,” she said. But she said not quarantining after exposure could help facilitate the spread of the virus.

“For CDC as a public health entity to tell people that a certain behavior is OK, because they're doing it already, isn't really taking leadership,” she said.

Silvera said the loosening of guidelines ignores the toll the pandemic continues to take, especially on people most vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

For the past few weeks, an average of between 400 and 450 people have been dying every day in the United States of COVID-19, and more than 36,000 Americans were hospitalized with the disease as of Friday, CDC data shows.

“I think what we’re saying is that the number of deaths we’re seeing is acceptable,” Silvera said.

Greta Massetti, chief of the CDC’s Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, echoed Hirschwerk's assertion that the country is now "in a stronger place ... to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19."

In addition, she said, "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.”

Halkitis said most Americans already stopped paying much attention to COVID-19. “From what I see, from what I experience, from what I hear, from what I observe, people are just going about their business like there’s no COVID," he said.

“People have no more cognitive space for dealing with this problem when they have problems like gas prices, inflation, monkeypox and other things that are going on,” he said.

At an event in North Babylon Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said “we’re looking very closely at” the new CDC guidelines.

The state will continue to emphasize the importance of vaccines and booster shots, and of personal protective equipment, she said.

Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region’s most prominent business group, said many businesses had been complying with CDC recommendations. But other businesses had not.

“The reality is that these revised guidelines are really catching up with the many, many businesses who've already moved past social distancing, masks, et cetera,” he said. “It’s sort of bringing the CDC guidelines into the real world now.”

For those businesses that had been following quarantine recommendations, “The new CDC guidelines could mitigate disruptions for businesses,” he said.

Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, said one problem with quarantine rules following exposure is that “people who are exposed don’t always know it,” especially because the virus has become increasingly infectious.

“We may want to be more conscientious, especially if we’re hanging out with people who are more vulnerable,” he said.

The CDC kept its guideline that people who test positive can leave isolation after five days — without taking a COVID-19 test — as long as they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of medication and symptoms are improving, and if they wear high-quality masks until Day 10. But gone is a recommendation that people who continue to test positive on a rapid test isolate until Day 10, or until they test negative.

Silvera said that ignores that people can still be infectious after Day 5.

“If you’re still testing positive with a rapid antigen test, that means you have enough virus that you could spread it to other people,” and you should stay isolated, she said.

With Olivia Winslow

Although experts disagree whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s relaxation of COVID-19 guidelines is wise, they agree that the agency is increasingly irrelevant to how most Americans live with the disease.

“I don’t think they matter at all,” public health psychologist Perry Halkitis said Friday of the new CDC recommendations.

“I think people have stopped paying attention,” said Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey.

The CDC Thursday dropped a recommendation to quarantine at home after being in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. Instead, the agency recommends wearing a high-quality mask for 10 days and testing for the coronavirus five days after exposure. The agency still recommends self-isolating for at least five days after testing positive.

The CDC also stopped recommending that people in general stay at least 6 feet away from others. 

Dr. David Hirschwerk, medical director of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and an infectious disease expert, said the CDC’s changes are “sensible.”

“It’s an acknowledgment that we’re at a different stage in the pandemic and that we certainly have tools through vaccination and antivirals and monoclonal antibodies to significantly reduce the risk of severe illness,” he said.

Hirschwerk said people are more likely to follow guidelines if they “evolve, as the pandemic has evolved.”

Public 'tired of hearing about it'

Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said the CDC was responding to the public’s increasingly blasé attitude toward taking COVID-19 precautions.

“They're tired of hearing about it, they're tired of dealing with it,” she said of the public. “I think there are a lot of people who unless they're feeling very, very badly, are not even bothering to test anymore. And even if they are, if they're feeling better after a day or so, it's very likely that they are not isolating.”

Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at...

Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Credit: Corey Sipkin

The CDC may believe it is dealing with “the reality that exists,” she said. But she said not quarantining after exposure could help facilitate the spread of the virus.

“For CDC as a public health entity to tell people that a certain behavior is OK, because they're doing it already, isn't really taking leadership,” she said.

Silvera said the loosening of guidelines ignores the toll the pandemic continues to take, especially on people most vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

For the past few weeks, an average of between 400 and 450 people have been dying every day in the United States of COVID-19, and more than 36,000 Americans were hospitalized with the disease as of Friday, CDC data shows.

“I think what we’re saying is that the number of deaths we’re seeing is acceptable,” Silvera said.

Greta Massetti, chief of the CDC’s Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, echoed Hirschwerk's assertion that the country is now "in a stronger place ... to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19."

In addition, she said, "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.”

Halkitis said most Americans already stopped paying much attention to COVID-19. “From what I see, from what I experience, from what I hear, from what I observe, people are just going about their business like there’s no COVID," he said.

“People have no more cognitive space for dealing with this problem when they have problems like gas prices, inflation, monkeypox and other things that are going on,” he said.

At an event in North Babylon Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said “we’re looking very closely at” the new CDC guidelines.

The state will continue to emphasize the importance of vaccines and booster shots, and of personal protective equipment, she said.

Cohen: Could ease disruptions for businesses 

Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region’s most prominent business group, said many businesses had been complying with CDC recommendations. But other businesses had not.

“The reality is that these revised guidelines are really catching up with the many, many businesses who've already moved past social distancing, masks, et cetera,” he said. “It’s sort of bringing the CDC guidelines into the real world now.”

Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association.

Matt Cohen, president and CEO of the Long Island Association. Credit: Danielle Silverman

For those businesses that had been following quarantine recommendations, “The new CDC guidelines could mitigate disruptions for businesses,” he said.

Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, said one problem with quarantine rules following exposure is that “people who are exposed don’t always know it,” especially because the virus has become increasingly infectious.

“We may want to be more conscientious, especially if we’re hanging out with people who are more vulnerable,” he said.

The CDC kept its guideline that people who test positive can leave isolation after five days — without taking a COVID-19 test — as long as they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of medication and symptoms are improving, and if they wear high-quality masks until Day 10. But gone is a recommendation that people who continue to test positive on a rapid test isolate until Day 10, or until they test negative.

Silvera said that ignores that people can still be infectious after Day 5.

“If you’re still testing positive with a rapid antigen test, that means you have enough virus that you could spread it to other people,” and you should stay isolated, she said.

With Olivia Winslow

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