Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged Wednesday that human behavior was a major factor in the new guidelines for how long coronavirus patients should be kept quarantined.
Walensky appeared on CNN to answer questions about the CDC’s recommendation for reducing its recommended isolation time from 10 days down to 5 days for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are not symptomatic. Walensky stated that most cases of the virus were transmitted within the first few days after symptoms develop.
Walensky added that “people must get back to work”, and said that the behavioral science aspect was also involved. Kaitlan Collins, the fill-in anchor, said that it sounded like the decision was as much about business as science.
Walensky stated that it had a lot to do with how people were able to accept the disease. He said studies have shown that most Americans don’t isolate when they are “need.” “And so, we really wanted to make sure we had guidance in the moment — where there was going to be a lot disease — that people could adhere to, that people would willingly follow and that spoke specifically about when people are maximally infectious.”
Walensky’s comments and the CDC shift come amid a spike in cases across the country, a majority of which are from the omicron version. Walensky stated that although the omicron variant of the disease is highly transmissible, many cases are mildly or absent symptomatically. This is especially true for those who have been immunized.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top physician adviser, made similar comments last week. He said they didn’t want “so many people out” given the record-setting volume of cases over recent weeks. Walensky received a Delta Air Lines letter this week asking that the quarantine period be reduced to five days for fully vaccinated people. The earlier guidelines were outdated.
After her comments, Walensky was criticized by both sides. Progressives who pushed for restrictions said it was reckless and an attempt to appease corporations such as Delta. Others on the right claimed the same logic used by President Trump and Republicans last January was dangerous and placed profits above people. Others hoped that the CDC’s reversal would encourage others to reconsider federal health measures like allowing children to wear masks at school.