The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a rare update to its coronavirus guidance on Friday, indicating that those who test positive no longer need to isolate for five days. According to the CDC’s recommendations, which have not been updated since the height of the pandemic in 2021, a COVID diagnosis should be treated exactly the same as a flu or other respiratory illness.

Per the new guidance, coming down with a COVID variant—which a few short years ago would have meant two weeks of self-quarantine, multiple rounds of testing, and a fear of imminent death—should now be handled by staying home when sick, practicing good hygiene, and improving indoor air quality. The CDC provides clearance for infected people to return to work or school 24 hours after fevers dissipate.

“Covid-19 is still an important public health threat, but it is not the emergency that it once was,” said Dr. Brendan Jackson, head of the respiratory virus response for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease. “Its health impacts increasingly resemble those of other [respiratory viral] illnesses, including influenza and RSV.”

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As The Wall Street Journal points out, most Americans dropped Covid testing and isolation periods long ago as the virus became more routine. Over the last few years, weekly hospitalizations for coronavirus infection have fallen by 75 percent and deaths have decreased by more than 90 percent.

“To put that differently, in 2021, COVID was the third leading cause of death in the United States. Last year, it was the 10th,” Jackson continued.

Nearly four years since the first COVID lockdowns began, many doctors now only recommend mask-wearing for those currently experiencing symptoms, and additional caution is only suggested for elderly and immunocompromised people. (In 2020, these ideas were considered quasi-genocidal pseudoscience that defied the recommendations of “the experts.”)

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However, Jackson and other CDC officials still warn that “COVID-19 is not the flu,” cautioning the public that it “still causes more serious illness and leads to more lasting effects.” The CDC advises that people stay up to date on COVID vaccines and seasonal flu shots, with those over 65 being recommended for additional boosters.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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