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The C.D.C.'s New Challenge? Grappling With Imperfect Science - The New York Times

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Date: 2022-01-17 17:41:45

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Before publishing a new recommendation, federal researchers normally pore over data, write a draft and fine-tune it based on comments from others. There was so little evidence for shortened isolation — and even that was based mostly on the Delta variant — that the “science brief” that typically accompanies guidance was downgraded to a “rationale” document.

Some researchers bristled at being left out of the decision-making process and were enraged by the agency’s public statement the next day that the change was “motivated by science.”

While some believed the new five-day cutoff was arbitrary, they also knew of data suggesting that rapid tests might miss some Omicron infections, and so mostly agreed with Dr. Walensky’s decision not to require a negative test result before ending isolation.

But when Dr. Walensky informed staff of the new recommendations in the emergency meeting on Dec. 26, they were far from ready. Over the next week, C.D.C. scientists struggled to adjust hundreds of guidance documents on the agency’s website.

About 2,000 health officials, public health lab directors and epidemiologists at the state and city levels join a weekly call with C.D.C. officials.

On the call on Monday, Dec. 27, just hours before the C.D.C. released its statement, state and local officials peppered agency scientists with questions about the plans for isolation guidance for the general public.

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The latest Covid data in the U.S. As the Omicron surge causes case counts and hospitalizations to reach record highs, reports of falling infection rates in parts of the U.S. offered a hint of good news, though U.S. officials warned that cases have not yet peaked nationally

Under strict orders to not talk about the new recommendations, C.D.C. staff members were silent.

“We would have appreciated more opportunity for input and heads up,” said Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Original Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/health/cdc-omicron-isolation-guidance.html