It seems as if even at this late date, the C.D.C. is trying to appease everyone, and therefore pleasing no one.
What would be better is a more evidence-driven approach. Antigen testing provides us a means to see whether people remain infected, and perhaps infectious, over time. My 17-year-old son, who is boostered, felt congested last week. Being responsible, we tested him at home with an antigen test, and he was positive.
The next day, though, he felt fine. Same with the day after. We tested him again, and he was negative. We tested him one day later, and he was still negative.
Of course, all this was possible because we bought a bunch of antigen tests a few weeks ago in case that happened. There’s a nationwide shortage of such tests, and they’re priced out of reach for too many Americans.
Based on his two negative tests, I would argue that at this time, my son is no longer infectious. He’s asymptomatic, he’s boostered, and he has repeatedly tested negative on antigen tests. That’s why his isolation should end; not because of a one-size-fits-all rule that treats all people, and all infections, the same.
If, however, he had tested positive for longer than five days, even if he was feeling fine, he might still be infectious. How would we know? Many people may feel pressured by jobs or obligations to ignore symptoms and get back to work or life before it’s safe. They may minimize lingering symptoms as five-day isolations become the norm. And the unvaccinated may never quarantine because it “is not feasible” for them to do so. All of these scenarios would be acceptable under the new C.D.C. guidelines, but they all potentially present a risk to spreading coronavirus infections.
Covid-19 is becoming endemic. We are even seeing more and more people who are boostered getting infected. We cannot keep asking people to isolate for mandatory periods in the hope that Covid will go away. We have to develop pathways for living with the coronavirus, where we recognize that for many, it is a mild infection from which they quickly recover. For others, Covid is a serious illness for which precaution is warranted. The biggest difference between those groups is immunization.