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CDC Respiratory Virus Guidance: What it Means for Correctional & Detention Facilities

Sara Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor, BJA; Liesl Hagan, Senior Scientist for Correctional Health, CDC; Erica Reott, Associate Director for Policy, Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, CDC

During this webinar, which was held on March 7, 2024, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) personnel discuss CDC's updated Respiratory Virus Guidance, which was released on March 1, 2024. The webinar covered the details of the updated guidance and the impact for public health departments and correctional authorities managing COVID-19 within confinement facilities. The webinar also included a Q&A Session.

Also available:

About the CDC Updated Respiratory Virus Guidance

The CDC released updated Respiratory Virus Guidance on March 1, 2024. The guidance is written from a broad perspective and focuses primarily on ways that individuals in the general public can protect themselves and others from a variety of respiratory viruses – including but not limited to COVID-19.

The reasons that this guidance has been issued are summarized in this background document and include the highlights below:

Background for CDC's Updated Respiratory Virus Guidance

  • There is a need to ensure that guidance protects health while not placing an undue burden on the population in the post-emergency context.
  • This guidance provides a unified approach to respiratory viruses, rather than having separate guidance for each specific virus.
  • We now have tools to fight serious respiratory illness, including effective vaccines and treatments.
  • Far fewer people are getting seriously ill from COVID-19. More people have immunity from vaccines and previous infection, and there are fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
  • COVID-19 remains a public health threat, but it now looks similar to other respiratory viruses.

The updated guidance is simpler and does not include specific recommendations for all the decisions facilities have to make to prevent respiratory illnesses. The updated guidance still includes the key elements that confinement facilities are used to and prevention strategies still apply. 

Elements that stay the same:

  1. Separate healthcare guidance still applies
  2. Layered prevention – prevention strategies have not changed
  3. Reliance on facilities for some prevention actions
  4. Monitoring people at risk for severe illness

Key changes 

  1. Using Hospital Admission Levels
  2. Isolation Terminology – changed to “staying home and away from others”
  3. Recommended amount of time to stay away from others
  4. Quarantine – no longer explicitly recommended, but available as an optional strategy (physical distancing)
  5. Testing at Intake – no longer explicitly recommended including for transfers, but available as an optional strategy

The CDC Respiratory Virus Guidance replaces previous COVID-19 guidance for correctional and detention facilities and for other non-healthcare settings. Previous corrections-specific COVID-19 pages have been archived.

COVID-19 is still a nationally notifiable condition, which means that facilities are required to continue reporting cases to their health department, and health departments are required to report cases to CDC. Reporting requirements may be reduced in the near future. To find contact information for your state/local health department: CDC – State and Territorial Health Departments – STLT Gateway.

Date Published: March 12, 2024