After almost two gruelling years, the announcement of a shortened isolation period for COVID infections should have been something met with great relief. This wasn’t the case, especially when it came to light that Delta airline’s CEO, health officer and medical adviser sent a letter to the CDC in support of shortening isolation periods. The letter sent the message that airline workers are essential workers and that omicron is a more mild disease. The CDC then proceeded to implement this shortening, though they stated that this choice was based on science. The public response was that of ridicule. Americans already are resenting unsafe workplaces policies in the midst of this pandemic, and it is no wonder why. The CDC’s choice to shorten isolation periods seems to be one that will cause much more harm than good to the public, all while lining the pockets of CEOs.

Though it may seem cynical to jump to this conclusion, it is the unfortunate truth that workers of all fields have had to go through this pandemic being treated as though they are disposable. Healthcare workers are leaving the field from COVID burnout, and millions of others, from chefs to teachers, are leaving their jobs as well. Most of this is due to how the pandemic is being handled, and with more variants and cases every day, it seems unlikely that we will ever return to the “normal” that we once had. The CDC’s choice to shorten isolation periods not only increases the chance of COVID spreading in offices, but it will only push more people to quit their jobs in favor of keeping themselves and their families safe.

Of course, the CDC said that if a mask is worn in the last five days following an isolation period, then transmission will decrease. However, this statement not only won’t work given the way people disregard masks mandates, but the CDC essentially reminds us why the 10-day isolation period was so important in the first place. If the first five days are the most contagious, and the last five days are still contagious but they’re less so if you wear a mask, then it’s almost ridiculous that 10 days hasn’t remained the standard in order to lessen the spread when someone in a workplace has been infected. Perhaps this wouldn’t be as much of an issue if people did take wearing masks seriously in the United States, but as we have seen, people will vehemently protest against them for as long as the pandemic continues. Therefore, the CDC’s entire argument ultimately falls apart on these bases alone.

The CDC’s Director Rochelle Walensky stated, “We can’t take science in a vacuum,” indicating that it was necessary for the economy to lessen the period. People staying at home to recover for a 10-day period puts too much pressure on companies. However, shortening this period will only mean that people might not get the full time to recover, or could even relapse by forcing themselves to work when they should be resting. The fact that more people can get sick from their coworkers will only push more workers to leave the workforce because they feel unsafe. This will result in less people being available to work, which could mean that CDC-recommended isolation periods are shortened even more. This move could be indicating a very dangerous vicious cycle that will make the economy suffer even more.

If we’re expected to not “take science in a vacuum,” then the CDC should have considered the mass of burned out workers leaving their jobs to keep safe from the coronavirus. They should have considered the essential workers who are risking their safety every day to keep working, who deserve 10 days to recover if they catch the virus. They should have considered that Americans will most likely ignore their recommendation for mask wearing in the last five days after exposure. The shortening of isolation periods simply does not work at a fundamental level when all of these factors are taken into account. Though it is unlikely that the CDC will reverse the choice they made, the public has every right to be mocking them for such a risky decision. It is disappointing, but not surprising, that a government organization is putting potential profit in front of the lives of U.S. citizens.

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