Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just admitted that her agency’s recently revised guidance on how long to isolate after getting a positive COVID-19 test has as much — if not more — to do with non-scientific factors than it does scientific ones.
During an interview Wednesday on CNN, Walensky stated matter of factly that the change in guidance was at least in part based on what the CDC thinks that Americans, at this point in the pandemic, can “tolerate,” as the Daily Caller reported.
CDC changes course
“Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public,” the guidance reads. “People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.”
The recommended isolation period for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 has also been reduced. The CDC explains:
For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days.
[…] Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.
The CDC also recommends that individuals test for COVID-19 five days after exposure to the disease. “If symptoms occur,” the agency says, “individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.”
In their statement, the CDC said the changes were “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”
What people will “tolerate”
Now, however, there seems to be more to the story.
“It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” Walensky explained in her Wednesday interview with CNN, according to the Daily Caller.
“We have seen relatively low rates of isolation for all this pandemic. Some science is demonstrating less than a third of people are isolating when they need to,” she added, according to the Daily Caller.
“We want to make sure we have guidance, in this moment where we were going to have a lot of disease, that could be adhered to, that people were willing to adhere to, and that spoke specifically to when people were maximally infectious,” Walensky said. “It spoke to both behaviors as well as what people were able to do.”
She added: “If we can get them to isolate, we want to make sure they are isolating in the first five days when they are infectious.”