California recently made changes to the guidelines around isolation following a positive test for COVID-19, taking a step away from the rules set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and taking a more moderate stance to the existing rule.
The state’s new health guidelines, which quietly released on Jan. 9, recommended that people who test positive and have mild symptoms can end their isolation if their symptoms improve and if they’ve been without a fever for 24 hours or more, according to a release.
CDC guidelines continue to advise that individuals with COVID-19 stay home for at least five days, regardless of whether they are symptom-free or not. After five days, if the COVID-19 symptoms haven’t improved, people should continue to isolate until they feel better and also have been without a fever for at least 24 hours.
“We are now at a different point in time with reduced impacts from COVID-19 compared to prior years due to broad immunity from vaccination and/or natural infection, and readily available treatments available for infected people,” the California Health Department said in the release.
The state’s new “policies and priorities for intervention are now focused on protecting those most at risk for serious illness, while reducing social disruption that is disproportionate to recommendations for prevention of other endemic respiratory viral infections,” the agency continued.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, California, one of the most Democratic-dominated states in the nation, had among the most stringent COVID-related rules in the country, which became a focus of Republican criticism over the past several years against the state and Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Many Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have said that lockdowns, mandates and other rules sparked a mass exodus from the Golden State to other states like Florida. Newsom, however, has downplayed those claims, claiming in a recent debate with DeSantis that only a small portion of people left his state.
California isn’t the only Democratic-led state that’s begun breaking away from the CDC’s recommendations, which have not changed since fall of 2022. Several months ago, Oregon, another deep blue state, broke with the CDC’s recommendations on isolation for asymptomatic COVID patients.
“The emergency has ended. Covid-19 is endemic,” Dr. Melissa Sutton, the medical director for respiratory viral pathogens at the Oregon Health Authority, told The New York Times. “We’re in a different phase.”
In response to California’s decision, Chunhuei Chi, a professor with Oregon State University, told NBC that health officials should try to “develop effective, safe ways to live with COVID-19 but not let COVID-19 hijack our life or work anymore.”
“What California and Oregon are doing is not just based on evidence, but they have to consider practicality. What is feasible?” said Chi.
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