On February 25th, 2022, the CDC released updated COVID-19 guidelines that are heavily focused on individual actions as opposed to community-level policies. The CDC’s new guidelines are at odds with the fundamental tenets of equitable public health practice.
The updated recommendations don’t align with the best science if the goal is to prevent infection, and suffering – from illness (including long COVID) and potentially death, and from all the associated costs of coping with COVID. The CDC is telling us that we, as individuals, can afford to bear those costs. And it’s telling us that the institutions that should be helping us – our government, our workplaces, and others – can’t afford to help us.
The people who can least afford to pay, will pay the highest cost: The new guidelines ignore the wellbeing of those most vulnerable communities who have been most affected by COVID, including the immunocompromised and disabled, the pregnant, those with lower incomes, those working in higher-risk jobs, indigenous, Black, Latinx communities, the unvaccinated, including children, the elderly, diabetics, and others with chronic diseases. The new guidance further shifts the burden of responsibility onto vulnerable people to fend for themselves, and to make difficult, constantly changing risk assessments.
These recommendations do the political work of trying to convince the public that this pandemic is over. They suggest we accept that there was no way for us to avoid the nearly one million dead in the US so far. They suggest there is nothing more we can do than to let this virus spread. They suggest that those without chronic illness and disability can live a “normal” life with COVID in the air, while those with health concerns need to be pushed inside.
We reject ineffectual public health policies based on individualistic approaches to pandemic management. The People’s CDC advocates for a layered, collective, and equitable pandemic approach at all levels that would prevent infection spread and protect the most vulnerable among us.