March 7, 2024

CDC Folds COVID-19 Into Updated Guidance for Common Respiratory Viruses

On March 1, CDC released updated guidance intended to help people protect themselves from a range of common respiratory viruses. The recommendations explain the agency’s new “unified approach” to addressing risks from respiratory viral illnesses such as COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The background for CDC’s updated guidance describes COVID-19 as “increasingly similar to other respiratory viruses” but recognizes that differences such as the risk of post-COVID conditions persist. CDC says it folded COVID-19, which previously had its own set of recommendations, into its overall guidance for respiratory viruses “because the U.S. is seeing far fewer hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19.” The most recent data posted to CDC’s COVID Data Tracker website on March 4 shows 17,310 COVID-19 hospital admissions in the past week (data is through Feb. 24). The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates the number of COVID-19 deaths reported to WHO up to Feb. 18. According to WHO’s dashboard, there were 949 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in the week up to Feb. 18. And in the four weeks leading up to Feb. 18, 5,854 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the country.

“The number of COVID-19-related deaths is still substantial, impacting families across the country,” CDC’s website states. “Based on preliminary data, COVID-19 still ranks as the 10th most common cause of death in the U.S. for 2023, a drop from 3rd in 2020 and 2021 and 4th in 2022.”

Previous agency guidance for COVID-19 recommended that individuals with illness isolate for a minimum of five days, then take precautions for a period following isolation. CDC’s new guidance for respiratory viruses calls for sick people to isolate until their “symptoms are improving overall” and they are fever-free without medications for at least 24 hours. During the five days after individuals exit isolation, the agency encourages them to use additional prevention strategies like wearing a well-fitting mask, keeping a distance from others, and getting tested for respiratory viruses.

The updated CDC guidance also urges individuals to stay up to date with vaccinations; practice good hygiene, including covering coughs and sneezes, washing or sanitizing hands, and cleaning high-touch surfaces; and take steps to clean the air such as by purifying indoor air or bringing in more fresh outdoor air.

Further details are available in CDC’s press release. The updated guidance can be found on the agency’s website.