They say the CDC issued updated advice that, with little counseling or preparation, halved the recommended time to stay away from others.
Lori Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), told CNN on Wednesday, “We’re trying very hard now to digest what it means and how to communicate it effectively. “
The confusion has left the CDC open to allegations that the decision was based on politics or lobbying pressure, Freeman said.
New guidelines for the public, issued on Monday, allow people who test positive for COVID-19 to leave isolation after five days if their symptoms are gone or getting better. for as long as they wear masks for at least five more days.
As far as quarantine is concerned, people who have been given a booster dose of the vaccine are advised to be outside safely and exposed to the virus, even if they wear a mask for 10 days , and even the unconnected can leave the quarantine after five days.
In the past, and under previous pandemic plans, such a major change in recommendations was previously driven by expert groups such as the NACCHO for input. And they must have been carefully explained in the media.
“Having made this mistake – I’m speaking as someone who’s learned over the years – it’s one of those things where you hold a news conference and you sit down and explain every aspect of it, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“You explain your decision-making process,” Benjamin told CNN. “So you say, ‘We’re worried that people can’t go back to work, that we have health care workers sitting there who really don’t pose a major risk to patients,'” Benjamin said.
Gigi Gronwall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agreed: “For the flu, sometimes like when we were concerned about pandemic flu, there were expert meetings or calls …
Freeman said state and local health officials are often on the front lines of communication about new policies, and they did not receive any warnings or preparedness for the latest updates. CDC did not provide posters, charts or visual aids, or any background that could help communicate the new advice to the public.
Instead, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, defending and explaining the change in television and newspaper interviews this week.
Both have said, without presenting data as evidence, that the infection is unlikely to spread to people after about five days from the onset of symptoms.
“The thing about the guidance change for the general population is that the science and the data haven’t come out,” Freeman said.
“We are in an incredible position to explain,” she said.
“I asked the CDC to clarify when they have to make these decisions outside of the use of science and evidence, so everyone understands that sometimes, it has to be done so that people don’t think it’s politics.”
Dr Marcus Plesia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), said members of his group were irritated and disappointed.
“Every time the CDC calls to try to clarify something, people get more confused,” he told CNN.
Many questions have been left unanswered, such as how the advice might apply to people in schools or mass settings such as nursing homes or prisons.
“It’s very unusual CDC comes out with unfinished stuff,” Plesia said.
Public health experts CNN said that had the CDC previously provided information to groups such as ASTHO and Nacho, experts there could have pointed out confusing parts of the new advice and helped strengthen it.
Freeman said those already skeptical of the public health establishment have even more fodder for accusations that everything just made up.
“We need to avoid making it look like random decisions,” she said.
“It’s welcome news in some ways; it’s the sad part of it,” Freeman said. “If it had been sent a little differently, it could have given people hope.”
Gronwall agreed. “Messaging – that was where things definitely broke down,” she said. “I read the guidance, and it seems reasonable.”
Plesia said the guideline makes sense. “I think the guidelines are responsible for the situation we’re in. They’re trying to stick to the science. But they’re also trying to deal with the reality of the situation.
“I think it’s so bad, rolling it out is so confusing.”
Gronwall said the lack of clarity from the CDC encouraged critics to attack the guidelines.
“The simpler the message, the easier it is for people to follow it,” Benjamin said.
David Holtgrave, dean of the School of Public Health at the State University of New York’s University of Albany, disagrees that the guidance is appropriate.
He wants the CDC to insist on the use of testing before releasing people from isolation and quarantine.
“Allowing someone with ‘solution’ symptoms to come out of isolation without testing negative is not supported by any public health science or best practice that I’m aware of,” Holtgrave told CNN.
He fears it could undermine the “test-to-return” for school policies.
“With the new guidance from the CDC, one might simply want to say that they have not tested positive in the past five days, are without fever or symptoms, and therefore have no need for a screening test,” he said.