CDC faces bipartisan scorn after muddled messages leave Americans confused over latest COVID guidelines

Mixed messaging from CDC on when to return to normal after COVID infection

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Janette Nesheiwat on contradictory instructions on COVID testing from top health officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been criticized and mocked from all sides after a series of muddled messages has baffled Americans amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the omicron variant.

“Honestly, right now the CDC’s slogan should just be, ‘We have no idea,’” Jimmy Fallon joked on Tuesday night during his “Tonight Show” monologue. “Seriously, at this point, you’re better off waiting a month to hear what the groundhog has to say.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been criticized and mocked from all sides after a series of muddled messages have baffled Americans amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases and the spread of the omicron variant. (iStock)

The CDC updated its guidance around isolation again on Tuesday, declining to add a clear testing recommendation while saying that people can take a test if they have “access” and “want to.” The new guidelines came as millions of Americans wait in hours-long lines to get tested during a record-breaking surge in cases. 

The agency halved its recommended isolation and quarantine time last week, saying that a person infected with COVID-19 can leave isolation after five days if they’re asymptomatic, followed by five days of wearing a mask. Medical experts pushed back on that recommendation, saying that it may result in people leaving isolation while they’re still infectious. White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci initially responded to the criticism by claiming on Sunday that a testing recommendation may be added, but the CDC ultimately declined to add it to the updated guidance. 

“Pod Save America,” a liberal political podcast hosted by former Obama White House staffers, invited University of California San Francisco Department of Medicine chair Dr. Bob Wachter on the program to slam the CDC. 

“The thing that really bugged me was, I think they should have just told the truth. You know, ‘We have a limited number of tests and if you can’t get a test, and you feel perfectly fine, we think the risk of you going out into civilization is quite low, you should wear a really good mask for the next five days and be super careful around vulnerable people,’” Wachter said. “That would have been OK. The message they put out was the tests don’t work very well on day five. That’s just wrong.” 

Wachter also called the latest CDC messaging “not only wrong but potentially harmful,” but the liberal podcast isn’t the only forum where the national public health agency has come under fire. 

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” also took a stab at lampooning the CDC with a spoof PSA explaining the new guidelines. 

“If you test positive for COVID, you only have to isolate for five days, five Martian days, they’re slightly longer than Earth days, so that probably helps. If you test negative but you’re an Aries, or any other fire sign, test again, your immune system is a free spirit, so the tests have trouble detecting COVID. If you can’t find a test, get a strong-scented marker and see if you can smell it. If you can’t, you probably have COVID,” the late-night show joked about CDC’s guidelines. 

Fallon had another bit breaking down the different CDC regulations that have changed since the coronavirus pandemic began.  

While many have joked about the situation, Republican congressional candidate Dr. Willie Montague called to “defund” the CDC.  

“The CDC has become completely corrupted & is beyond repair,” Montague tweeted. “Time to tear it down & rebuild it, making sure we don’t take away from the work done in stopping other diseases in the process.”

Meanwhile, journalists from reliably liberal mainstream news organizations have also attacked the CDC. 

CNN’s Anderson Cooper called the new guidelines “confusing” and pondered on air whether the CDC changed its guidelines simply because it’s so difficult for Americans to find tests.

“This is confusing,” CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta agreed.  

MSNBC’s Joy Reid declared, “It can’t help that the CDC changes their mind every three seconds,” and said it has to be “absolutely infuriating” for medical professionals. NBC’s “Today” admitted the CDC was “facing criticism” and declared the agency is “under fire” after puzzling changes to its guidelines. 

“CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokoupil said on Wednesday that we’re in “confusing times when it comes to recommendations from the CDC” before an infectious disease specialist told him it feels like a “chose-your-own adventure” scenario. 

“It doesn’t really work well as public health guidance,” Dr. Celine Gounder told CBS viewers. 

The New York Times published an opinion piece by Zeynep Tufekci headlined, “The C.D.C. Is Hoping You’ll Figure Covid Out on Your Own,” that questioned the agency for a variety of reasons including everything from its mask recommendations to the new guidelines. 

“On Tuesday, the C.D.C. updated its guidance to say that ‘if an individual has access to a test and wants to test’ and is positive after five days, he or she should ‘continue to isolate until Day 10,’” Tufekci wrote. “So is the C.D.C. now conceding that people who test positive are indeed still infectious? And if they don’t have a test, or don’t want one, no worries?”

The Times column continued: “The government can help us pull out of this fog, but it should always be based on being honest with the public. We aren’t expecting officials to have crystal balls about everything, but we want them to empower and inform us while preparing for eventualities — good or bad. Two years is too long to still be hoping for luck to get through all this.” 

NBC News reporter Ben Collins joked that a complicated flow chart is needed to determine if the agency thinks you should be allowed to return to work, while CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pointed out that new guidance “appears to contradict” previous rhetoric by CDC director Rochelle Walensky. 

Many others have also scolded the CDC on Twitter: 


Fox News’ Paul Best contributed to this report. 

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