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American Association of People with Disabilities Responds to New CDC COVID Isolation Guidance

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Press Release

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2024

Contact: Jess Davidson at jdavidson@aapd.com; 202-975-0960 


For Immediate Release: March 1, 2024
Contact: Jess Davidson at jdavidson@aapd.com; 202-975-0960

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the CDC announced new isolation guidelines for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses that reduces isolation times to as little as one day once a person’s symptoms are “mild” and fever ended, confirming previous reports. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) released a statement last week in response to reports of the CDC’s plan, which can be read here.

The CDC’s new guidelines state that people with COVID would no longer need to stay home if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication and if their symptoms are mild and improving.

AAPD is glad to see the CDC encouraging people to stay home when they are sick, wear masks for five days when they return to work or school, stay updated on vaccines, and ensure better air quality.

However, we also recognize that the general public has demonstrated low uptake of these behaviors over the past 4 years of the COVID pandemic. The odds that these interventions will be widely adopted now are not high enough for immunocompromised, disabled, and other high-risk Americans to bet their health and safety on. In this way, the new guidance continues the disturbing trend we have continually witnessed in response to COVID-19, of enacting policies that leave disabled people behind and isolate them further. Multiple systemic failures have converged with an unwillingness to embrace more aggressive virus mitigation strategies.

“I am disappointed and frustrated by the CDC’s decision to reduce isolation timelines and continue to put high-risk and disabled people in grave danger with these new guidelines.” said Maria Town, AAPD President and CEO. 

“While it is a laudable goal to have guidelines that are streamlined across common respiratory viruses that are easier to understand, these new guidelines fail to accurately reflect the reality of some of the key differences between COVID, the flu, and RSV. Efforts to treat COVID more like the flu fail to recognize that COVID is not the flu, COVID is COVID – a virus that, per the CDC’s own resources, is more contagious than the flu, can cause more severe illness than the flu, causes more post-viral illness than the flu, and is infectious to others longer than the flu.”

Town continued, “In addition to COVID’s infectiousness being greater than that of the flu, plans to treat COVID like the flu fail to recognize that the flu is also exceptionally harmful, especially to high-risk and disabled people. From October 2023 to the present, the CDC’s preliminary data estimates anywhere between 18,000 and 53,000 deaths from the flu. In February, roughly 20,000 people were being hospitalized with COVID each week. These deaths and hospitalizations are acutely felt by disabled people and other high-risk people.

“What does the strategy of ‘treating COVID like the flu’ say about how many deaths the CDC will tolerate? What does it say about whose lives the CDC deems worthy, and whose lives are they already counting on losing? In streamlining the guidance, the goal should be to take all viruses more seriously, not take COVID less seriously.”

“To any disabled or high-risk person feeling terrified and alone in the face of this news: Your life is worthy. Your safety and care should be centered. We have other tools, beyond this guidance, to promote our health and safety and the health and safety of others. We have community care, and we have civil rights, and this guidance does not supersede either.”

“That means that if you are high-risk, you may request reasonable accommodations at work, in school, and in your community to help keep you safer. This can mean working from home, and scheduling changes and/or additional protective equipment and air quality improvements at work if you cannot work from home. Organizations can expand their paid time off policies to help their workers stay home while sick and recovering,” Town concluded.

The current picture of COVID-19 in the U.S. is concerning. When reading the below statistics be aware that official mortality counts likely underestimate the true number of people who have become disabled or who have died from COVID.

  • This news comes on the heels of a massive early-2024 COVID surge, the United States’ second-highest COVID surge since the pandemic began

  • The United States experienced more than 1,500 COVID deaths per week in the month of January 2024

  • In the last week alone, over 17,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19

  • At least 5-10% of all people who contract COVID-19 are estimated to develop Long COVID, a disability that has affected at least 18 million Americans

  • The most recent Household Pulse Survey data shows an increase in rates of people currently experiencing Long COVID – from 5.3% of all American adults in October 2023 to 6.8% in January 2024

  • There is growing evidence that not getting enough rest during the acute infection increases one’s risk for Long COVID –shortened isolation periods will certainly diminish rest and recovery time

  • There are no FDA-approved treatments for Long COVID, and high-quality care is expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to come by