Goodbye social distancing? Changes might be coming to the CDC's COVID-19 guidelines

Megan Clay administers a COVID-19 test to Angel Alsammarraie in West Valley City on July 6. Guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19 could be relaxed as soon as this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Megan Clay administers a COVID-19 test to Angel Alsammarraie in West Valley City on July 6. Guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19 could be relaxed as soon as this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19 could be relaxed as soon as this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new federal guidance is expected to stop calling for people exposed to COVID-19 to stay at home and end the push for social distancing as well as regular testing for the virus in schools, according to a CNN report that cited sources familiar with the plan.

Currently, the CDC recommends that people who aren't up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations — or who have skipped the shots — should stay home and wear a mask around others for at least five days if they have come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

But the call for quarantine would go away under the updated guidance, according to CNN, and be replaced by a recommendation that anyone not protected by the vaccine and exposed to COVID-19 should wear a mask and test for the virus for at least five days.

Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, however, is expected to continue to be told to stay home. It is not clear if the new guidance will address what people who have the virus should do despite concerns that the current guidance about isolation is confusing, something underscored by President Joe Biden's positive tests.

Social distancing — staying at least 6 feet away from others — would no longer be recommended by the CDC, the cable news network reported. People would instead be advised to identify what could increase their risk of contracting the virus, such as poor ventilation and crowds, as well as their own age and health.

"Test to stay" programs, first implemented in Utah schools in January 2021 to help keep students in classrooms and widely used nationwide during last winter's surge of the omicron variant, would also be dropped from the guidance, CNN report said, although schools would be encouraged to improve ventilation.

The changes have been circulated to public health and education officials and are not final, CNN said. The CDC said in a statement to the cable news network that it "is always evaluating our guidance as science changes and will update the public as it occurs."

The report comes as the Utah Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday there have been 5,150 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, along with 247 hospitalizations and 28 additional deaths from the virus. Utah's death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 4,928 lives lost.

Nearly 71% of the wastewater treatment sites monitored throughout the state are showing elevated levels of the virus, down from just over 97% last week. Other indicators reported by the state are also falling including the seven-day average case count, by just over 11%; and the seven-day average of hospitalizations, by 3%.

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Lisa Riley Roche

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