It’s late October 2021. The pandemic isn’t over. We’re still in it.
“The pandemic” is the era in which this particular disease runs rampant throughout the world – with rising and falling weekly case counts and an accumulating death toll — and for which we have evolving safety guidelines.
Every now and then, as the state of our country’s COVID-19 epidemic fluctuates, vaccine rates rise, new scientific findings get reported, and seasonal shifts dictate different degrees of awareness, the CDC puts out updates to their safety guidelines.
They’ve updated their Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools as of October 22, for example.
The update isn’t a big change. For the summary of recent changes, all they have for 10/22 is:
“Updated recommendation for fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to be tested 5-7 days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms.”
Previous recommendation on this particular point was 3-5 days; the update just pushes out the time to get a test a couple extra days for those people.
What does this mean?
There’s nothing in this latest update to indicate that schools are out of the woods yet — or any of the rest of us, for that matter. In this same section of the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines, they recommended universal indoor masking for all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. That came as recently as August of this year.
As of now, the CDC recommends that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. That includes over 90% of the United States.
In a press briefing this week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky indicated no significant mask recommendation updates were coming, noting transmission rates are still significant ahead of colder weather:
“It’s important to note that as we look at the current situation, we are also heading into respiratory virus season. During that season, we know respiratory viruses tend to thrive and so we’re taking all of those into consideration.”
We’re all sort of learning how to live with it. And since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, we’ve been collectively inching back toward some sense of normalcy. But the pandemic isn’t over. As we inch toward normalcy, we shouldn’t normalize COVID-19. It is still a deadly disease — and it gets deadlier and more transmissible over time, as stronger and faster variants pop up.
For our safety, for our sanity, and for our economy, we really ought to follow the science. So when the CDC has new updates, it’s important to take note and keep up.
And the CDC shows no sign of easing up on COVID-19 any time soon.
What does the CDC say about indoor air quality?
The CDC says the same thing they’ve been saying for months. Since June, the CDC has recommended strong building ventilation. Where buildings lack excellent ventilation, they recommend supplementing with in-room portable HEPA air purifiers.
We know COVID-19 transmission is 19 times more likely with poor indoor airflow. We also know that indoor HEPA air purifiers capture aerosols on which diseases travel. We also know that there are many, many benefits to keeping indoor air as clean as possible.
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CDC, Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools:
CDC, Community, Work, and School:
CDC, Ventilation in Buildings:
Newsweek, CDC Doesn’t Plan to Change Mask Recommendations as Transmission Remains High Across U.S.:
Mayo Clinic, U.S. COVID-19 map: What do the trends mean for you?