The CDC’s latest COVID-19 guidance treats unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals the same


In what it describes as “streamline[d] COVID-19 guidance,” the latest COVID-19 updates (here and here) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t appear to distinguish between individuals regardless of vaccination status.

Potayto, potahto.

While the CDC continues to promote the importance of being up to date with vaccination, the CDC concedes that “protection provided by the current vaccine against symptomatic infection and transmission is less than that against severe disease and diminishes over time, especially against the currently circulating variants.”

The CDC believes that COVID-19 is here to stay. But its focus has shifted from controlling the spread to mitigating the risk of severe illness.

For example, the CDC no longer recommends social distancing. Similarly, the CDC advises that those exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, need not quarantine. Instead, they can wear a high-quality mask for ten days and get tested on day five. Plus, in most community settings, the CDC no longer recommends screening testing of asymptomatic people without known exposures. And the CDC now recommends case investigation and contact tracing only in health care settings and specific high-risk congregate settings.

So, why the shift?

The CDC told reporters yesterday, “High levels of population immunity due to vaccination and previous infection and the many available tools to protect the general population, and protect people at higher risk, allow us to focus on protecting people from serious illness from Covid-19.”

The CDC has further acknowledged that, like vaccination, therapeutics can prevent severe illness too.

Although, no one with COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination status) should be hanging around others. Those who suspect that they have COVID-19 should get tested. If negative, they can end isolation. If positive, stay home for at least five days and isolate yourself from others in your home. You are likely to be most infectious during these first five days. Wear a high-quality mask when you must be around others at home and in public.

  • If after five days you are fever-free for 24 hours without medication, and your symptoms are improving, or you never had symptoms, you may end isolation after day five.
  • Regardless of when you end isolation, avoid being around people who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 until at least day eleven.
  • You should wear a high-quality mask through day ten.

The biggest takeaway for employers, beyond keeping sick employees out of the workplace for the recommended periods, is that the CDC does not consider regular testing of unvaccinated individuals necessary (if you currently do). And HR no longer needs to spearhead contract tracing. Just remember that your mileage may vary under state (cough, California, cough), local law, or industry.

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