The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 guidance is the agency acknowledging it was wrong in the past to downplay natural immunity and promote unprecedented policies like asymptomatic testing, a California epidemiologist says.
The new guidance, released on Aug. 11, rescinds and alters a number of key recommendations, including treating unvaccinated and vaccinated people differently for many purposes, explicitly stating that people with previous infection have protection against severe illness, and removing six-foot social distancing advice.
“The CDC is admitting it was wrong here, although they won’t put it in those words,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, told The Epoch Times.
“What they’ll say is that, well, ‘the population is more immunized now, has more natural immunity now, and now is the time—the science has changed.'”
But a large percentage of the U.S. population has had natural immunity, or protection from prior infection, Bhattacharya noted, while over 80 percent of the elderly population had protection from severe disease from COVID-19 vaccines, previous infection, or both, since 2021.
“This is two years too late, but it’s a good step,” Bhattacharya added.
The CDC, which did not respond to a request for comment, portrayed the change as streamlining previous guidance, with the adjustments stemming from more people being vaccinated and more COVID-19 treatments available.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” Greta Massetti, the CDC author of the new guidance, said in a statement. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general during the Trump administration, echoed the line of thinking.
“The fact that @CDCgov is changing guidance shouldn’t be taken as proof that they were necessarily ‘wrong,’ on a particular issue. The virus has changed, our tools and immunity have changed, and our knowledge has changed. So too must our guidance. That’s how science works,” Adams wrote on Twitter.
Vaccination numbers have fallen off in recent months, with little change among adults and little update among children, even after the vaccines were authorized and recommended for kids as young as 6 months old.
No new treatments have been authorized since December 2021, and a number of the treatments have been shown as less effective against newer strains of the virus that causes COVID-19, as have the vaccines and, in some cases, natural immunity.
Nearly half of the 20 papers and briefs cited by the CDC in support of the adjusted guidance were published in 2020 or 2021, while a number of others were released in early 2022.
No Mandates Rescinded Yet
Among the most significant changes in the guidance: a rollback of recommendations for asymptomatic testing for individuals exposed to COVID-19, loosening guidance related to tracing contacts of COVID-19 cases, and ending quarantine recommendations for people exposed to a positive case.
Some rules are stricter for high-risk settings such as nursing homes.
Masking is also recommended for 10 days for people who were exposed to COVID-19, including when a person is at home around others.
Bhattacharya, who co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration in 2020, a document that called for focused protection on the elderly and fewer restrictions on others, said that the guidance is closely aligned with the principles outlined in the declaration.
Based on the new guidance, the CDC should immediately rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for foreign travelers entering The United States, a policy imposed in November 2021, the professor added.
The CDC’s webpage describing the mandate says that the agency “is reviewing this page to align with updated guidance.” The U.S. government has not adjusted or rescinded any of its vaccine mandates since the guidance was changed.
Editor’s note: The CDC responded after this story was published. See its statement below.
CDC response: “The COVID-19 landscape has changed in the United States, and we now have many tools than we did in early 2020 to support the prevention of COVID-19 as well as severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Our guidance emphasizes the minimum actions people need to take to protect communities.
“In addition, this guidance refresh is informed by the reality that nearly the entire U.S. adult population now has some level of immunity, either due to vaccination, past infection, or both. We also have a better understanding of who is at higher risk for getting very sick with COVID-19 and ways we can help protect them from severe disease.
“With more tools to protect ourselves and our communities from severe illness from COVID-19 – like vaccination, boosters, and treatments – we have increased protection and flexibility for the future. CDC’s commitment to addressing COVID-19 is strong and as a nation, we continue to respond to evolving challenges and identify best practices related to COVID-19.”