Now that the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic is over (it’s not) are you ready for the next pandemic? Not if the current Healthcare Infection Control Practices Committee (HICPAC) of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has their way. As we felt our way blindly through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic we rediscovered evidence from just prior to the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 that face masks can help cut the spread of airborne infectious agents. They are less expensive to produce than a respirator and less effective but they can help protect others from contracting disease from an already infected person. But to actually protect yourself and others a respirator is vital. Especially if you are a healthcare worker where you have a much higher likelihood of being around and having direct contact with infectious persons.
If the current contingent of HICPAC has their way we shall soon be right back where we were before. Or even worse than we were. We lost many healthcare workers during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic due to lax or no protocols even after it was determined that the virus was primarily spread through airborne means rather than contact. Currently HICPAC is in the process of proposing updates to the 2007 Isolation Precautions guidance. This will have a major impact on both healthcare workers and patients and will likely affect vendor and family members as well. This discussion has been proceeding for some time (since at least the summer of 2022) but without disclosing any of it publicly.
That is until recently. Thanks to the efforts of National Nurses United (NNU) and their filing of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) and Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requests HICPAC has shared meeting summaries from its Precautions Guidance Work Group which can be found here.
On this page you will also find the ability to send a letter to the CDC demanding that they release the draft proposal before they vote on it. There is a template that you can send as is or modify to include your own experiences and demands. It is vitally important that they hold open public meetings and stop putting employer financial interest ahead of worker and community health and safety, base their actions on actual science not their own “expert” opinions and do a complete review of the literature and not selectively choose only a small portion of it. It is important that governmental agencies be open and transparent about their actions especially when they intend to reduce protective measures and guidance.
We’ve learned a lot since 2007 and now is not the time to be less helpful and protective! Especially since sars-CoV-2 has not gone away and continues to mutate. The influenza virus that caused the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 was the virus that mutated and cause all the subsequent flu epidemics throughout the 20th century. We need to look down the road laid out before us not retreat to an imaginary less hazardous time.