Healthy Returns: What to know about CDC’s new Covid recommendations

Healthy Returns: What to know about CDC’s new Covid recommendations


A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tami Chappell | Reuters

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Good afternoon! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced two major new Covid recommendations last week. 

The first – and much more controversial – change applies to nearly all of us. People who test positive for Covid-19 no longer need to stay away from others for at least five days, according to new guidelines the CDC issued Friday. 

The second, less surprising shift targets a narrower population: seniors. The CDC on Thursday recommended that people ages 65 and older get an additional updated shot against the virus this spring. 

The separate announcements show the tricky balancing act that the CDC faces as the pandemic enters its fifth year.

On one hand, the agency is trying to relax and simplify its prior health guidelines to reflect the progress the U.S. has made in reducing hospitalizations and deaths from Covid over the last two years. 

Doing so also aims to make the CDC’s guidance easier for Americans to understand and follow, especially at a time when many of them are no longer willing or able to spend a week out of work or school. 

On the other hand, the CDC is still trying to stress the importance of using vaccines and treatments to combat the virus. Those protective tools are critical for people at higher risk of severe complications from Covid, including older adults and immunocompromised patients. 

Now, let’s dig into the details of the two new recommendations. 

The CDC’s new isolation guidelines say people with Covid may resume daily activities if: 

  1. They’ve been fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours. 
  2. Their symptoms are improving overall for at least 24 hours. 

That matches the agency’s public health advice for the flu and other respiratory illnesses. Notably, the recommendation does not apply to health-care settings or nursing homes.

The CDC recommends that people who are recovering from Covid or other respiratory viruses take additional precautions for five days. They include wearing well-fitting masks, washing their hands, limiting close contact with others, improving ventilation in their spaces and testing as needed. 

The agency noted that U.S. states and countries that have already shortened their Covid isolation times have not seen increased hospitalizations or deaths related to Covid. That includes California and Oregon. 

Previously, the CDC recommended that people with Covid stay home for at least five days to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others. The agency’s initial isolation period was 10 days. 

Some health experts had urged the agency to shorten that period even before the official announcement last week. 

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News last month that he and his colleagues have privately encouraged the CDC to drop the five-day isolation period. He said that’s partly because there’s little evidence it’s stopping the spread of the virus. 

Other experts were critical of the CDC’s new guidance. 

The agency’s new guidance “promotes people shedding virus to infect others,” Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said in a post on X. He added that, based on evidence from rapid antigen tests, most people will still be infectious if they exit isolation earlier. 

Sylvester Fisher gets a influenza vaccine from pharmacist Patricia Pernal during an event hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health at the Southwest Senior Center on September 09, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. The vaccines were being offered along with pneumonia vaccines and the recently authorized COVID-19 booster vaccine, which protects against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the more recent omicron variants, BA.4 and BA.5 during the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Scott Olson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The CDC’s other recommendation appeared to be less controversial. After all, the agency in April backed a second dose of last year’s Covid shot for seniors and immunocompromised people. 

On Thursday, the CDC said healthy older adults should get an additional dose of the newest round of Covid vaccines at least four months after their most recent shot. People who are immunocompromised are already eligible for another dose of the updated vaccine.

Those updated vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax are designed to target the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. But the shots are also effective against the JN.1 subvariant, which currently accounts for more than 90% of new Covid infections in the U.S. 

Now, the CDC is gearing up for another slate of new shots this fall. 

Researchers are working on selecting a strain for the upcoming version, and will likely wait until May to pick one to design vaccines around, CDC Director Mandy Cohen said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday. 

And she expects that to be the status quo moving forward: “Folks should anticipate that when they get their flu shot, they’ll get an updated Covid shot as well,” she said.

Latest in health-care technology

A slight uptick in funding for women’s health

Happy Women’s History Month! 

It’s no secret that male founders receive vastly more venture capital funding than their female counterparts. The 30-year average for female founders’ total share of investments sits at just 2.4%, according to a 2019 report from the Harvard Kennedy School. 

However, a recent report from Deloitte found that investments in women’s health could be an emerging bright spot – though there is still a lot of room for improvement. 

Investments across technology, pharma, biotech and medtech related to women’s health grew 5% between 2022 and 2023, the report said. Jennifer Radin, who leads Deloitte’s U.S. health-care advisory practice, said the uptick in investment is “really exciting” because women have been historically underrepresented in both the design and delivery of health care.

But even so, women’s health still makes up just 2% of venture funding for the overall health-care industry, according to the report. There’s still “a lot of room to grow,” Radin said. 

She said women make up 50% of the U.S. population, 60% of the paid workforce and more than 65% of the unpaid workforce, which includes child and family caretaking and household management. As a result, the perception of women’s health as a niche market is changing.

“Actually ensuring that women have access to high quality, affordable women-centered care creates a more stable economy, and a more stable society,” Radin told CNBC in an interview. “And so the business case for women’s health is actually really clear and can be quantified.”

You can read the full report here.

A new frontier for venture capital 

In January, the venture firm General Catalyst announced it signed a letter of intent to acquire Summa Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in northeast Ohio that supports more than 1,000 inpatient beds.

It’s an unprecedented move in venture capital, and one that has elicited a mixed response from health-care professionals, investors and Ohio residents.

Dr. Marc Harrison, who’s now CEO of HATCo, speaking at the Healthy Returns conference in New York City on May 21, 2019.

Astrid Stawiarz | CNBC

General Catalyst set the stage for the deal in late 2022 when it brought in Dr. Marc Harrison, who spent the bulk of the past two decades in the upper ranks of medical systems. A year later, the firm introduced a new company called the Health Assurance Transformation Corporation, or HATCo, for Harrison to lead.

Harrison said HATCo’s goal isn’t to overhaul Summa by cutting costs. Instead, the company will work over a “decades-long time horizon” to establish new revenue streams and models of care, particularly through the introduction of new platforms and tech solutions.

CNBC explored the acquisition and what it will mean for Summa, as well as why Harrison is up for the challenge. I’ll have much more to come on this as it evolves! 

Feel free to send any tips, suggestions, story ideas and data to Annika at annikakim.constantino@nbcuni.com and Ashley at ashley.capoot@nbcuni.com



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