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Workforce Shortages Could Be At Play With New CDC Guidance; 'You're More Likely To Have COVID Than The Common Cold'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We're seeing one of the highest COVID-19 case counts ever in Illinois.

More than 20,000 people testing positive Tuesday. The only day with more COVID cases was last Friday, Christmas Eve. The COVID death toll is also rising. There were 96 deaths in Illinois from COVID-19 reported on Tuesday, the highest number in a single day since February.

It was around this time Monday that the CDC was downgrading the isolation and quarantine times for those with positive COVID tests. With some time to think about it, some leading experts on the virus are questioning what motivated that change.

CBS 2's Chris Tye reports why workforce shortages were very likely at play. Medical experts call the move short sighted. It may reduce canceled flights and staff shortages at doctors offices for now. But the fear is it could make this wave linger longer.

"Right now in Chicago, if you have a sniffle or a scratchy throat, you are more likely to have COVID than the common cold," said Dr. Emily Landon.

It's lead to sick calls and staff shortages. From places like Dr. Landon's hospital, to your kid's school, to the grocery store down the block.

"There's probably a lot of pressure on CDC to bring people back everywhere," said Landon, of University of Chicago Medicine. "Because a lot of other industries are exactly the same staffing shortages because people are really likely to have COVID."

Pressure that lead to the CDC changeup Monday, shortening isolation time after a positive COVID test from 10 to five days, followed by wearing a well-fitting mask. The problem with that last part? History.

"In the past, when the CDC recommended that certain populations wear masks and other didn't, that was a complete failure," Landon said.

The failure by millions to follow the mask rule will likely create recurring cycles of sickness, she said. That resulting in deeper long-term staff shortages, making the problem worse, not better.

"If you bring people back to work faster, but they are contagious, and they make other employees sick, you're just going to have more employees out," Landon said.

In places like Chicago, where mask-wearing is followed more closely than other parts of the country, the pinch may be less severe. She said the CDC likely felt the pressure to revise the rules from dozens of industries hemorrhaging.

"I am continuously amazed that we put the economy first, forgetting that without people we don't have much of an economy," Landon said.

Dr. Landon added she would have recommended seven days, not five. She said the mass shortage of tests also a major factor here. It's reflective of the national inclination to try and react and not plan ahead.

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