On Monday, Dec. 27, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new recommendations on dealing with quarantine and isolation for those who may have contracted COVID-19. A revision of existing guidance cut the isolation time required from ten days to just five for those who receive a positive test result and do not present with symptoms.
A significant element of the updated rules relies on testing, which brings to the fore the administration’s lack of preparedness in an area that Joe Biden recently touted as a victory. On December 21, the president announced that he would oversee the distribution of 500 million tests to homes all across the country – a move much lauded by politicos and the Fourth Estate alike – but the CDC recommendations highlight just how little impact such action will have.
The CDC’s quarantine and isolation recommendations include:
If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Regardless of vaccination status)
- Stay home for 5 days.
- If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
- Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (For those who have been boosted or received a vaccination within the last six months)
- Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
- Test on day 5, if possible.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky wrote of the new guidance:
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
While the cutting in half of isolation time will no doubt help businesses resume a form of normalcy and provide support for supply chain issues, little is being done to alleviate the safety concerns of American citizens.
Stretching the Supplies
With an estimated 326 million Americans, the 500 million tests supplied by the Biden administration (which will take a significant chunk of time to send out as the government has yet to procure them) works out at roughly one and a half per person.
Tests are already in short supply across the nation, and many governors are concerned that the federal effort will scupper state endeavors. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) warned President Biden in a call on Monday that, “as you look towards federal solutions that will help alleviate the challenge, make sure that we do not let federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions.”
The mass roll-out of testing has been thwarted by a number of factors to date, including a lack of ability to determine the test’s efficacy or to get authorization from the FDA. But one of the more prominent bones of contention is the matter of whether the Biden administration itself has been the most significant stumbling block. As reported by Vanity Fair – and confirmed by a number of other sources – Biden officials met virtually with a group of testing experts on October 22 and were presented with a complete strategy to enhance America’s testing capabilities. The plan was a blueprint on how to get more than 700 million tests per month into the hands of Americans. Just to repeat that: 700 million per month. The group, comprised of experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and other organizations, received a reply several days later saying that the plan was a no-go.
In early December, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked the idea of providing home test kits. She said, “Should we just send one to every American? Then what happens if you—if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?” Despite her sarcasm, this shortly thereafter became Joe Biden’s signature policy response to a growing Omicron crisis.
In the fallout, even pro-Biden CNN noted that “this situation also appears to have some of the classic ingredients of a Washington screw-up. A White House consumed by crises seems to have taken its eye off the ball to some extent.”
No Test Necessary?
While the CDC guidance may seem positive on paper, the fact that fewer tests are available, that the government will be buying up those that are, and that the administration could have dealt with this back in October, gives little comfort to Americans eager to resume their everyday lives with some degree of confidence that they will not fall sick.
The CDC guidelines suggest that an individual may have a known case of COVID, but as long as they are asymptomatic, they can end their quarantine period. Epidemiologist Michael Mina tweeted, “I absolutely don’t want to sit next to someone who turned Positive 5 days ago and hasn’t tested [negative].” And this sentiment is likely echoed around the nation.
Without significant testing (not 1.5 tests per person at some indeterminate time in the future), the CDC guidance is not entirely clear and just may muddy already murky waters regarding COVID protocols. And then there’s the $64,000 question: Who is to blame? Is it the CDC for revising its guidance? Is it the public for wanting to ensure that they and those around them are safe from COVID-19? Or is it ultimately the Biden administration that lambasted President Trump for his response, promised to solve the coronavirus crisis, and then put every single foot wrong from testing to messaging, and yet still refuses to take a single ounce of responsibility?
History may be the final judge of that particular question.
*For those who would like to read the CDC guidance in full, please click here.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.