ASAN condemns possible shortening of COVID-19 isolation guidelines

Surgical masks laying on top of each other

Edit: On March 1, 2024, the CDC announced that they would be adopting the shortening of the isolation guidelines.

ASAN is deeply troubled by reports made by The Washington Post this Tuesday that the CDC is planning to change its COVID-19 isolation guidelines. ASAN condemns the potential new guidelines, which would remove the five-day isolation period currently recommended after a positive test for COVID-19. Instead, people with a positive test result would not need to isolate if they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication. 

ASAN has spoken repeatedly on the failures of the US government to respond adequately to COVID-19. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the end of the public health emergency and subsequent Medicaid unwinding have been devastating to the disability community and other marginalized communities. Efforts to encourage adherence to masking guidance and improve indoor air quality have been underwhelming. Through their actions, the CDC and US Government as a whole have indicated the strategy to combat COVID-19 is seemingly a vaccine-only response, but, with adult uptake of the latest bivalent booster being only 21.9%, even these efforts are beyond inadequate. 

This change is particularly alarming given who is likely to be among the most impacted. Changing the isolation window disproportionately exposes and affects vulnerable populations such as disabled and immunocompromised people, older adults, and other high-risk groups. These guidelines would increase COVID-19 exposure and make people at high risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 less safe in a range of public and private spaces. 

Asymptomatic spread remains a serious concern with the latest variants. Reduced access to at-home and PCR testing since the end of the public health emergency contributes to transmission. Removing the isolation window adds increased pressure to return to school and work while potentially infectious. This will disproportionately affect individuals with hourly jobs that must be performed in person and families with children that are lower-income and families of color, as many communities aggressively enforce truancy laws against these households. Counting on the availability of treatments like Paxlovid as a mitigation strategy is highly inequitable as racial and ethnic disparities in outpatient treatment of COVID-19 remain prevalent. An approach to COVID-19 that accepts widespread and repeated infection leaves the most vulnerable among us unprotected. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, it has also led to the emergence of new variants, putting our communities at additional risk. Each repeated infection increases an individual’s likelihood of developing Long COVID, a potentially lifelong disability with limited treatment options. 

The CDC has continually failed to take into account disabled people when making COVID-19 policies and regulations. The CDC is moving in the wrong direction by reducing COVID-19 isolation periods. Instead, it should release improved guidelines to promote masking and increase availability, accessibility, and understanding of vaccines, testing, and treatment. States and the federal government also must address the continued effects of the pandemic and the end of the public health emergency on health care access and home and community based services, make investments in improving indoor air quality and preventing and treating Long COVID, and address the economic and human impacts of this crisis. ASAN condemns the possible shortening of isolation guidelines and will continue to hold the federal government accountable for protecting the public from the ongoing risk of COVID-19.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!

For further inquiries, contact ASAN’s Legal Director at