November 16, 2023

Controversial Infection Control Guidance Sent to CDC for Review

On Nov. 3, the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) voted to send a draft of revised guidelines on isolation precautions in healthcare facilities to CDC for review. If accepted by CDC, the revised guidelines will be published in the Federal Register, initiating a 60-day public comment period.

According to CDC’s Safe Healthcare Blog, the revised guidelines are the first of two documents that will replace the current “Guideline for Isolation Precautions: Preventing Transmission of Infectious Agents in Healthcare Settings” (PDF) established in 2007. The first document discusses concepts of disease spread in healthcare facilities and categories of isolation precautions. Due to the public commenting process, the first document is not expected to be finalized before June 2024. Work on the second document, which will focus on pathogen-specific recommendations, will begin after the first document is finalized.

The revised guidelines have been met with criticism from several organizations. In a letter to CDC in July, AIHA described the revised guidelines as “grossly deficient” (PDF). Last month, a webinar whose speakers included scientists, advocates, and other stakeholders presented detailed objections to the revised guidelines, including that the revision would recommend healthcare workers wear surgical masks in situations where N95 respirators are necessary to protect workers’ health. Webinar speakers also raised concerns that the revision would not require the use of airborne infection isolation rooms for patients infected with novel pathogens.

National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses in the United States, condemned HICPAC for voting to send the revised guidelines to CDC. “HICPAC’s draft is permissive and weak and seeks not just to maintain existing practice—which has been shown to be inadequately protective—but even rolls back the use of some important measures, such as airborne infection isolation rooms,” said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez.

A PDF of the revised guidelines is available from the CDC website.