POLITICS BEFORE SCIENCE
By Richard Davis
There was a time when scientists would err on the side of caution and make decisions based on the best outcome for the most people. In the case of how long to isolate or quarantine after a positive test for COVD-19, the CDC has caved-in to politics and shortened the isolation period to five days.
If you look at the science and try to examine all of the available information it is clear that five days is not enough to provide safety to people you come in contact with. The CDC does suggest that after five days of isolation an infected person get re-tested and then wear a mask for another five days. That is almost a concession to the fact that there is a high likelihood they can transmit the virus beyond five days.
According to a recent story in the New York Times, “But scientists have noted that some people may be infectious for longer than that (five days), and some criticized the agency for not recommending that people receive a negative result or a rapid test before ending their isolation periods. The agency subsequently updated its guidelines to note that people who wanted to test should take a rapid antigen test “towards the end” of the five-day isolation period but stopped short of formally recommending it.”
It is clear to me that the CDC and other agencies have weakened the scientific method and the caution that they should embrace in order to make life easier for the business community. There is no doubt that businesses in this country are suffering because of the pandemic and when one worker becomes infected it is common for a number of others to have to stay out of work for an isolation period. Isolating and quarantining can decimate a business, so the CDC decided to re-interpret the data and come up with a new recommendation.
It is difficult to know how transmissible the virus is from an infected person. A recent Web MD piece noted that, “People infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may have different viral loads. This goes for people who aren’t unvaccinated, as well as “breakthrough infections” that affect those who are. Scientists are starting to learn more about how this affects your symptoms and your ability to get COVID-19 and give it to other people.”
What this means is that the science about virus transmission is still evolving and the CDC and other policymakers are making decisions that will need to be changed as new information becomes available. Frequent testing can help all of us make better decisions about when to isolate and when to socialize, but we also need to use as much common sense as possible when dealing with COVID.
I have my own rules for trying to be safe in these difficult times. I always wear a KN-95 mask when I am in a public space. When I socialize with people I know have had two doses of the vaccine and have been boosted and who are currently healthy, I don’t wear a mask if we are in a private home.
I avoid going anywhere where there will be large crowds and I always assume anyone in a public place may be transmitting virus. My wife and I recently developed flu-like symptoms and we isolated until we got the results from PCR tests. It was the right thing to do and I hope others will muster as much common sense as they can to stay healthy and keep others out of harm’s way. The “official line” may not always offer the best advice and we need to scrutinize policy now more than ever.
The approach to managing the pandemic has shifted. Physical health is one aspect, but, increasingly, mental, emotional, and economic health is taken into consideration . It is no longer sufficient to quarantine and isolate, shut down schools, and events. Yes, the numbers add up, but it’s not just a body count we should consider. It’s much more complicated than that.