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Some local experts urge caution as CDC relaxes COVID isolation guidelines

Some experts urge caution with new COVID-19 isolation guidelines
Some experts urge caution with new COVID-19 isolation guidelines 02:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for COVID-19 – under which the virus that essentially shut down the world four years ago will be treated more like the flu.

The new guidelines end guidance for Americans to stay home for five days after testing positive for COVID. The agency cited improvements in the rates of hospitalizations and deaths inflicted by the virus this past season for the change in its recommendations.

"COVID-19 remains an important public health threat, but it is no longer the emergency that it once was, and its health impacts increasingly resemble those of other respiratory viral illnesses," the agency said Friday in a report justifying its decision.

But some local experts advise caution with regard to the change.

Back in 2020, Chicago epidemiologist Dr. Katrine Wallace, of the University of Illinois Chicago, took to TikTok to shed light on COVID-19.

On Friday, she explained why the CDC has decided to lower the caution level for COVID.

"So while every respiratory virus doesn't behave the same, adopting a unified approach makes recommendations easier for the public to understand - and probably more likely for people to follow them," Wallace said.

Under the new rules, COVID-19 patients can resume activities 24 hours after they are fever-free – and if symptoms are improving without the help of medications.

The CDC said making such changes based on vaccines and treatments available, widespread immunity, and hospitalizations being down – much like chief nursing officer Christina Waegner is seeing at Sinai Chicago.

"Right now, we have two have people who are hospitalized currently, and that number, two, is vastly different from four years ago, where people were in the hundreds of patients that were being hospitalized and extremely sick," said Wagener.

But Wagener and other experts warned that this does not mean the end of COVID.

"They do encourage, of course, hand hygiene, lots of hand washing, and wearing a mask in public - because you never know if you're exposing others who could be immunocompromised, or maybe have other critical conditions," Wagener said. "I think that COVID itself taught us the how delicate life really is."

Medical experts also continue recommending COVID vaccines – especially in older adults who are at risk of serious infection.

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