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COVID-19: CDC Updates Infection Control Guidance, Global Response Strategy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sept. 23 updated COVID-19 infection prevention and control recommendations for health care personnel (HCP). The new requirements update recommendations for source control use and eliminate vaccination status as a factor in mask wearing, screening testing, and post-exposure recommendations.

While previous guidance recommended masks in health care facilities regardless of transmission level, CDC now recommends masks only in communities with high levels of community transmission. As of Sept. 26, nearly 75 percent of the United States faces high community transmission numbers, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker.

Additionally, CDC leaves screening testing of asymptomatic HCP, including those in nursing homes, to the discretion of the health care facility.

The agency says the updates reflect the high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, as well as the availability of treatments and prevention tools.

CDC also updated its strategies to mitigate health care staffing shortages, stating that in most circumstances, asymptomatic HCP with higher-risk exposures do not require work restriction, regardless of their vaccination status.

The agency suggests that health care facilities and employers prepare for anticipated staff shortages with contingency capacity strategies, including adjusting staff schedules, hiring additional HCP, and rotating HCP to positions that support patient care activities. Furthermore, health care facilities are prompted to develop regional plans to identify designated health care facilities or alternate care sites with adequate staffing.

Notably, the updated guidance allows health care workers with mild to moderate illness from SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, who are not moderately to severely immunocompromised and are well enough to work, to return to work as long as:

  • at least five days have passed since symptoms first appeared (day zero);
  • at least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
  • symptoms, including cough and shortness of breath, have improved.

CDC Updates COVID-19 Global Response Strategy

CDC released on Sept. 22 its updated strategy for global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the need to reduce the global burden of the virus and detailing plans to build global public health capacity to prepare for future pandemics.

CDC’s strategy for global response to COVID-19 now includes goals to:

  • reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and effect of COVID-19 globally;
  • expand scientific knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and strengthen global public health leadership; and
  • improve long-term health security in low- and middle-income countries.

Other objectives include accelerating widespread and equitable access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as bolstering economies and other critical systems under stress due to COVID-19 to prevent backsliding and enable recovery.

Additionally, the updated strategy guides development of criteria for monitoring and evaluating public health achievements and CDC’s effect on health security at home and abroad.

The agency added that the updated strategy aligns with the U.S. Government strategy and U.S. National Security Strategic goals to protect the American people.

Pfizer Requests Bivalent Booster EUA for Children 5–11

Pfizer-BioNTech applied Sept. 26 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) of the bivalent formulations of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11.

The updated vaccines target not only the original SARS-CoV-2 variant, but also the current BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

FDA amended the EUA of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine for individuals 12 and older on Aug. 31, and CDC recommended the updated booster vaccine Sept. 1.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Andrea Lugo is a communications associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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