The rapidly changing guidelines on how to isolate, quarantine and mask oneself during the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have left many New Yorkers confused and frustrated.
Medical experts said the updates will continue as science struggles to keep up with the rapid spread of the omicron variant. Their concern is that people will start ignoring important messages due to the constant changes and updates.
“People are losing confidence in the guidelines as there do not appear to be consistent messages,” said Tomeka Robinson, professor of rhetoric and public advocacy at Hofstra University, which specializes in health communication. “If they lose confidence, they are less likely to see the guidelines as necessary to follow.”
In late December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the time that individuals tested positive for COVID-19 should isolate from 10 days to five – if they no longer have symptoms. CDC officials said the change was motivated by research showing that transmission occurs one to two days before symptoms appear and about two to three days thereafter.
Many were confused that the agency did not say that a negative test result was necessary to complete isolation. It encouraged people to wear a mask around others for another five days.
“I understand that, but I think it’s confusing to a lot of people,” said Gabrielle Bush, 19, of Rocky Point. “It makes sense to go back to work, but not for younger people who have to go out and see people after five days. You can still give people COVID.”
In recent days, health authorities have urged people to wear N95 breathing masks and KN95 masks for the best protection against the airborne virus. This is at odds with the proposals in the early days of the pandemic, where the public was discouraged from wearing these devices due to fears that there would not be enough for health professionals and first aiders.
This week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that there will be an update of the agency’s guidelines for masks, but said the general advice is that people wear well-fitting masks.
Dan Panzenbeck of Greenlawn said he follows the CDC guidelines, but noted that the agency’s changes to things like masking have become too political.
“I think people are being pressured to make decisions and there is not enough known about this virus,” he said, noting that he does not have a political affiliation. “I think the CDC has become too political and government-driven and is changing its mind too quickly.”
Robinson said “clear and consistent” messages are essential to informing the public.
“Simply releasing the information at a press conference or even a press release does not give media professionals the language needed to decipher what is being said,” she said.
According to published reports, a media consultant is helping Walensky better formulate vital messages about pandemic guidelines and health issues. During a briefing with journalists on Friday, she said the agency “works really hard to get information to the American public and balances it with the realities we all live with,” and is “committed to continuing to improve,” as we learn more about science and to communicate it with all of you. ”
Dr. Zenobia Brown, vice president of public health and medical director at Northwell Health, said that while COVID-19 is an infectious disease, it is also an “anxiety disorder”.
“There is a cascade of worry and anxiety that happens as a result of that infection,” she said. “Part of what drives it is the seriousness of what it can be, but also that it’s hard to keep up with what to do. It’s hard to keep up at all whether to be worried or not. . “
She advises people not to be put off by the changed guidelines and information. Those with questions should contact their doctor.
“The basics are the same, which is the way it spreads from person to person,” Brown said. “You’re being sneezed and coughed on … so to reduce your risk, put on a mask. Be around other people wearing masks.
“The problem with COVID is that it does not want to remain a disease,” she added. “Because of that, the guidelines are changing and will continue to change.”
What to know
CDC guidelines state that people are exposed to COVID-19 who are updated on vaccinations do not need to be quarantined but must be tested for at least five days after having had close contact with an infected person, keeping an eye on symptoms and wearing a mask for 10 days.
People who are exposed but not up-to-date on vaccines should be quarantined for five days, tested at least five days after close contact, watch for symptoms and wear a mask for 10 days.
Individuals tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of their vaccination status, should stay home for five days and isolate themselves from other people in their home as much as possible. If this person is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of antipyretic medication, a person can complete the isolation after five days and should wear a mask until day 10.
SOURCE: Center for Disease Control and Prevention