Big business greed is leading to us downplaying just how big of a deal COVID is.
In order to combat COVID-19, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Fauci stated that people needed to be isolated for 14 days and in August of 2020, he stressed the importance of wearing masks consistently. In fact, in April of 2020 he stated that he did not understand why more states had not issued stay at home orders, according to CNN. So why is it that now, Dr. Fauci and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is saying that people only need to isolate and self quarantine themselves for five days? Why are people allowed to leave isolation without getting tested to determine if they are still infectious? Well, Dr. Fauci cited the reason himself: people have to get back out to work.
“I mean, obviously if you have symptoms you should (be out), but if you are asymptomatic and you are infected we want to get people back to jobs — particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly,” Fauci said.
This decision comes in light of pressure, according to PBS, from air lines to look into ways to shorten the isolation period for COVID patients to minimize the chance of staffing shortages caused by the Omicron surge. CDC director Dr.Rochelle Walensky stated that since all of the cases are not going to be severe (even arguing that many may be asymptomatic), there still needs to be a way for society to keep functioning. However, according to a recent CNBC article, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the Omicron variant could be fatal for the elderly and unvaccinated. While Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for WHO did make it clear that fewer people are dying from Omicron and there are fewer hospitalizations, that does not mean Omicron is not something to fear.
“It is not just a mild disease,” Van Kerkhove said. “This is really important because people are still being hospitalized for omicron.”
The CDC did state (according to the WCVB) that the transmission time after exposure may be shorter for Omicron. However, in an article by CNN, Fauci acknowledged that Omicron is spreading at an “extraordinary, unprecedented degree,” and hospitalizations are double what they previously were. So clearly, this is still transmissible and severe enough that it should still be concerning.
It could be argued that the CDC, for better or worse, is right. In fact, business owner Qamara Edwards stated in her interview with PBS that with the new guidelines in place she would be able to keep her business, which also faced a staffing shortage of 15%, going. Well, that’s exactly the issue. How can the economy successfully continue if employees are passing on variants of the COVID virus to others? As pointed out by President of the Flight Attendants Union Sara Nelson, these new rules are going to result in employers pushing people to go back to work before they are ready.
“We don’t have a test component adding on to this, so we’re really encouraging the airlines to go above and beyond that minimal guidance from the CDC. Because if we continue to go with this, we know we’re going to be sending infectious people back in to the workspace, on to our planes, into our communities, and we’re going to extend this pandemic,” Nelson said (courtesy of Travel Pulse).
According to CNBC, Delta Airlines shortened its time for employees who catch COVID to five days with pay on Dec. 28 and Amazon has also shortened its paid time off to a week, according to Reuters. The Omicron variant, just like the original strain (according to CNBC) is still deadly to the elderly, unvaccinated and those with underlying conditions. COVID is still as dangerous now as it was in March 2020 when America first entered lockdown. With that being said, there are still things that can be done. Take the piece of advice that the CDC seemingly has not faltered on: get vaccinated and get booster shots. In spite of all the back tracking, Dr. Fauci had it right, the states also need to crack down on stay at home orders. Yes, the economy may come to a halt, but with how the CDC is handling things now (seemingly giving in to pressure from businesses), that’s more of an inevitability than anything else.