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CDC Issues Updated Respiratory Virus Guidance for General Public

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new respiratory virus guidance for the general public to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other common respiratory viral illnesses, such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The new guidance does not apply to health care settings. For the general public, the guidance provides a unified approach to prevention of respiratory viruses with similar routes of transmission, symptoms, and prevention strategies. The updated guidance recommends that people with respiratory virus symptoms that are not better explained by another cause stay home and away from others until at least 24 hours after both resolution of fever AND overall symptoms are getting better.

The new guidance recognizes that COVID-19 remains an important public health threat. However, it notes that vaccines, therapeutics, and a high rate of immunity have mitigated the risks posed by COVID-19. Other tools to prevent transmission, such as rapid tests and indoor air quality systems, are also helping to reduce spread. As a result, according to the guidance, COVID-19 has become similar to other respiratory viruses and a unified prevention strategy is justified.

While the guidance recommends staying home only until at least 24 hours have elapsed since resolution of fever and improved symptoms, it also recognizes that a residual risk of COVID-19 and other respiratory virus transmission remains after that period. It therefore advises five additional days of interventions (i.e., masking, testing, distancing, improved air quality, hygiene, and/or testing) to reduce the spread of disease during later stages of illness. This is especially important to protect people at higher risk of severe illness. The guidance also points out that some people, especially those with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with COVID-19, influenza, or RSV for an even longer time.

Where the Updated Respiratory Virus Guidance Does Not Apply

It is important to recognize the following limitations on the applicability of this guidance:

  • The guidance does not apply in health care settings, such as nursing homes. The CDC offers separate, specific guidance for health care settings (COVID-19, flu, and general infection prevention and control).
  • The respiratory virus guidance covers most common respiratory viral illnesses, but does not replace specific guidance for viruses, like measles, that require special containment measures.
  • The guidance may not apply in certain outbreak situations when more specific guidance may be needed.

Previous adult care facility and assisted living guidance issued by the Department of Health (DOH) points to CDC guidance for the general public. Accordingly, there is reason to believe this new unified guidance may apply to those settings. LeadingAge NY has reached out to DOH for confirmation and will keep members informed as we learn more about how this change will affect our membership.

Contact: Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org