Updated CDC respiratory virus guidelines cause controversy

The CDC’s updated guidance for respiratory viruses faces criticism from vaccine skeptics and those who feel the agency isn’t doing enough to protect the public from COVID-19. The guidelines advise people to take similar precautions for COVID-19, the flu, and RSV, including staying up to date on vaccination, isolating until symptoms improve, and wearing a mask for five days after discontinuing isolation. Many posts falsely claim that the CDC said COVID-19 is the same as the flu, while others question why the CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for COVID-19.

Risk level: High

Recommendation: Social media posts falsely claiming that COVID-19 is the same as the flu may discourage patients from taking adequate COVID-19 precautions, including receiving the updated vaccine. Messaging may emphasize that CDC never claimed that COVID-19 is the same as the flu. In fact, a CDC representative stated, “Let’s be clear. Covid-19 is not the flu. It still causes more serious illness and leads to more lasting effects.” While the contagiousness of COVID-19 has not changed, public health guidelines have had to evolve over time, so the CDC has issued general respiratory virus isolation recommendations that apply to people who are sick with COVID-19 and as well as people who are sick with other respiratory illnesses. Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines remains essential in preventing severe illness, death, hospitalization, and long COVID.