June 14, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

CDC updates COVID-19 recommendations for non-health care settings

4 min read

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On March 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its longstanding, non-health-care-setting guidelines for people who have recently tested positive for COVID-19. The guidelines now align with recommendations for common respiratory illnesses, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV.

The CDC’s guidance for COVID-19 is a symptom-based strategy that eliminates the need for people with COVID-19 to isolate for at least five days. Some respiratory illness symptoms can include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, vomiting and more. Symptomatic people can return to normal activities if, for 24 hours, they have been fever-free without using fever-reducing medication and if symptoms have been improving overall. The CDC encourages people recovering from respiratory illnesses and returning to normal activities to take additional preventive steps for the next five days to curb disease spread, including:

  • Wearing a well-fitting mask.

  • Keeping a distance from others.

  • Getting tested to inform your actions to prevent spread to others.

The CDC’s guidance also acknowledges that people recovering from respiratory illness and people who test positive for a virus but have no symptoms are typically less contagious but can still transmit the disease to others. Those who test positive for a virus but do not have symptoms can curb asymptomatic spread by wearing a well-fitting mask and keeping a distance from others for five days following the positive test.

While all respiratory viruses may not act similarly, according to the CDC, adopting a unified approach makes recommendations easier to understand and, thus, more likely to be followed. The CDC recommends staying up to date with immunizations, practicing good hygiene, and taking steps for cleaner air.

Penn State and University Health Services have and will continue to follow CDC guidance for COVID-19 and respiratory illnesses.

“The preventive, common-sense infection control strategies outlined in the guidance are part of the same education and public health messaging we have always disseminated to keep our students and staff healthy,” said Cecilia Devonshire, UHS infection control nurse manager.

“If you feel sick, stay home — do not go to class, do not attend indoor or crowded events, skip the Saturday night dinner or party, and take care of yourself. You are taking care of the community when you choose to take care of yourself.”

Visit the CDC’s respiratory illnesses website and FAQ page for more information on the latest CDC guidelines.

Continued viral activity

The CDC updates come at a time when respiratory viruses like influenza, common colds and stomach viruses are still circulating widely.

“Before everyone left for spring break, we continued to see strong flu numbers at UHS and in the wastewater surveillance. This is higher than we have seen in the past two flu seasons but consistent with pre-pandemic activity, which shows flu can last into April and May,” said Dr. Rebecca Simcik, UHS medical director. “We also had students who were quite ill, with non-flu and non-COVID viruses, and we expect continued presentation as everyone gathers back to campus and the classrooms. We might all be sick of winter and all the illnesses it brings, but we need to continue to mind the preventive measures that reduce the chance of getting sick.”

With warmer weather approaching, it is important to practice the following preventive measures to reduce the chances of getting sick:

  • Hand-wash with either soap and warm water or hand sanitizer frequently and before eating.

  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

  • Wear a high-quality mask when traveling through crowded or poorly ventilated spaces like buses or highly populated buildings or if you are already experiencing respiratory symptoms.

  • Avoid sharing food and drinks.

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.

  • Rest and re-charge, as adequate sleep is imperative in keeping your immune system running at full capacity.

  • Stay up to date with vaccines.

UHS offers the flu vaccine and the Moderna (Spikevax) COVID-19 vaccine. Both vaccines are usually free with most insurance.

Students who are sick and unsure if they should see a clinician can call University Health Services’ 24/7 Advice Nurse line at 814-865-4847 and press option 3. Students can schedule an appointment via myUHS or call 814-865-4UHS (4847). Students with respiratory symptoms who also have risk factors for severe illness should seek health care right away for testing or treatment. Treatment for flu and COVID-19 may be an option and needs to be started within a few days of when symptoms begin.

Students who are sick and need to stay home are responsible for communicating directly with instructors if they must miss a class, lab, work or assignments. Verification of illness forms will not be provided for routine illnesses or injuries, per University Health Services policy. Faculty are encouraged to continue to be sensitive to students’ well-being and work with them individually to meet academic requirements as they recover from illness.

For more information on UHS and its services, visit the University Health Services website.

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