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Weekend Doctor: First major COVID guidelines update

By Rafid Fadul, MD
Pulmonology & Critical Care Medicine

Last week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines for COVID-19 recommendations. This is the first major update since the early days of the pandemic, and it signals an evolution in both the disease and our responses to it.

When the pandemic started, the medical community was scrambling for answers and options to treat COVID-19. There were no vaccines, and multiple failed attempts at recycling existing therapies, like hydroxychloroquine or azithromycin. Only a year into the pandemic did we have the scarce options of a vaccine, monoclonal antibody therapies or modestly effective anti-virals. In the early days, our best hope at saving lives was containment and prevention. There will always be debate about how well that was executed, given the widespread sacrifices we all made from our usual lives, but we all agree that the last two years were exceptionally difficult.

Now, we are in a much different place. COVID-19 is not “over,” and it may well never be, but we have seen the evolution of better vaccines and better treatment options that have given us a fighting chance. While quarantining remains critical when you are infected with COVID-19, the new recommendations allow for masking and testing if you are exposed, instead of a mandatory quarantine. As a reminder, if you are at risk of severe infections, such as those with compromised immune systems or lung problems, the recommendation is still conservative for quarantining around those who are or were recently infected.

This represents a relief on our day-to-day lives: the negative social and economic impact, the staffing shortages and all of the other issues that arose from the need to quarantine should improve. But bear in mind, this strategy only works when each of us acts with responsibility to ourselves and to everyone else in our community. This means wearing a mask when around exposed individuals and positive cases, maintaining good hygiene and taking advantage of the treatments available to us, including vaccinations and timely interventions when sick.

The updated CDC stance will allow us to take a precision approach to protecting the most vulnerable among us without excessively impacting broader communities. While COVID-19 is likely never “going away,” we all have the ability to make its impact on us, both directly and indirectly, much less.

For more details regarding the new CDC recommendations, visit