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CDC Alters COVID-19 Isolation Guidelines

The CDC’s proposed changes to COVID-19 isolation guidelines prompt debate over balancing public health concerns with economic and societal impacts.

Airport COVID-19 Testing. Image via CDC Global Flickr

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is seeking to alter current COVID-19 isolation guidelines to make navigating the illness more functional for the general public. Currently, the CDC requires five-day isolation for individuals who contract COVID-19. 

Under the new protocol set to begin in the spring, those who test positive will no longer be required to isolate. The CDC’s decision to strive for a more lenient approach is supported by the drop in the number of people hospitalized and deaths caused by COVID-19. 

Although the number of hospitalizations was volatile at the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant decline from a peak of 150,650 hospitalizations in January 2022 to a low of 20,722 hospitalizations as of February 2024, per the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker

The CDC has stated that after four years of COVID-19, much of the population has developed partial immunity to the infection due to previous exposure and vaccinations.

The latest guidelines, as reported by the Washington Post, place emphasis on individual discretion in managing positive COVID cases, relying on clinical symptoms to determine the end of isolation. Once in effect, people would no longer need to stay home if they have been free of fever for at least 24 hours without medication. 

While the revised guidelines are not yet official, some members of the Howard University community expressed worry about the possibility of the new COVID protocol. 

“I have had students that were sick with significant COVID symptoms, and I have observed that having COVID can create disruption in their everyday school activities – attending their classes, completing their assignments on time, etc.,” Dr. Dragana Tankosic, a professor of physics and astronomy at Howard University, said. 

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Kristal Alston, a junior psychology major and chemistry minor at Howard University, expressed similar concern with the CDC’s decision. 

“A lot of people have been shown to be suffering from long-term COVID symptoms. In the long run, I believe the decision has the ability to cause major health effects in the American public,” Alston, who is on the pre-med track at Howard, said. 

Time Magazine reported that numerous “people have not paid attention to COVID in a long time.” The public’s increasing disregard for COVID can be tied back to state and local laws that no longer require corporations to pay their workers paid leave if they contract the virus. 

Some professionals have an optimistic stance on the changes. Dr. Joyvina Evans, graduate chair and assistant professor at Howard University, affirms students’ difficulties managing COVID and feels confident in the recommendations. 

“It is important that people do what makes them feel comfortable,” Evans said.

To ensure COVID numbers stay low on Howard University’s campus, Dr. Evans recommends that “everyone continues to follow protocols such as hand washing, responsible social distancing and not going to class if infected.” 

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Copy edited by D’ara Campbell

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