A Guide to Understanding CDC Guidelines on COVID-19

(Posted 3/21/20; updated 4/20/20)

CDC Guidelines
Virtually all state and local public health guidelines are based on CDC guidelines, which are being constantly updated, based on emerging scientific understanding of the disease and evolving “realities on the ground.” Thus, in general, it is probably best to go to the CDC for the most reliable, up to date public health guidance: coronavirus.gov

Vermont Department of Health Website
Nevertheless, you may also wish to consult the Vermont Department of Health website for Vermont-specific public health information. 

Remember, however, both of the above sources are for public health guidelines, not individual advice.

Your Primary Health Provider
If you feel sick; think you may have been exposed to COVID-19; or are in an at-risk population and are in doubt about actions you should or should not take: always consult your own primary health provider, as they know your personal health history best.

Some Shortcomings of the CDC Guidelines on COVID-19
The comprehensiveness of the CDC guidelines is both a boon and a challenge to lay persons. 

For one thing, there is information in these guidelines that is intended for other audiences like healthcare professionals, facilities, laboratories, and state/local departments; schools, workplace, and community locations; and a large range of community officials and personnel like first responders. While some readers may be interested or may need to know about these guidelines, most of us do not and, in fact, reading some of it may just increase our confusion and/or stress levels. 

Even the guidelines provided specifically for lay people can be confusing because of the maze of links to links the CDC uses to provide this abundance of information to a variety of lay people: sick, well, 60+, those with underlying health issues (asthma and HIV/AIDS in particular).  

A Map for navigating through coronavirus.gov
 to find what you need to know
To help you navigate this comprehensive public health resource, below we have provided a kind of road-map through this maze with indications of the last date for each given page was reviewed by CDC personnel, which is important because some of these guidelines have changed even over a very short period of time and may well continue to change, as the situation on the ground evolves. (Many, but not all of these pages contain links to printer-friendly pdf versions that you can print out if you wish.)

Start at Coronavirus.gov
Once you, click on coronavirus.gov below, it will open that web site on the tab to the right of the Aging Intentionally e-Newsletter website, so it may be much easier for you to have a printed version of the roadmap below, as you click on the various links on the coronavirus.gov site. We suggest that you copy and paste this road map into a blank document in MSWord or Apple Pages or a Google Doc and print it out from there.

Now, click on coronavirus.gov; you will come to the newly designed landing page for all CDC guidelines, where you can click on either of the two branches that address the two main issues most people are concerned about:
  • How to prepare and protect yourself
  • What to do if you think you are sick.
Let’s  follow each of these two branches:

1. On the landing page first click on: How to prepare and protect yourself
This will take you to a page entitled: How to Protect Yourself and Others, which consists of 2 sections, which you should at least skim and, if you see something in a section that you aren’t sure you already know, read the section more carefully:
  • Everyone Should, which includes links to: 
Wash your hands 
Stay home as much as possible 
people who are at higher risk of getting very sick 
more details on Cloth Face Covers  
frequently touched surfaces 
 EPA-registered household disinfectant 
more details on Cleaning And Disinfecting Your Home 
 a video "What you need to know about hand washing" 
  related information: More hand washing tips 
 related information: Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings
After you have read the links and other information you want on this first branch, and if you are currently caring for someone who is sick or you think you may be sick, you may want now to read the second branch on the landing page, described immediately below.)

2. On the landing page, click on: What to do if you think you are sick
This will take you to a page entitled: If you are sick or caring for someone, which consists of 3 boxes, each linked linked to one of the following subsections:
  • What to do if you are sick, which provides Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick, and includes: emergency warning signs for when you should seek medical attention. 
  • Caring for Someone at homewhich contains some important new information, but much of it is information that you may already have read on links above.
  • Disinfecting your home if someone is sick, which contains the same information as you may have read above on everyday ways to clean and disinfect your home and extra steps when someone in your home is sick.
Congratulations you've successfully completed the entire trip through to the most important places of coronavirus.com. But suppose that sometime in the future, you just want to go to one particular place on the site. Do you need to go through the maze again to get there? NO, in the directions (above), we have provided a link to every "stop" of the trip, so that you can click on that stop and go right to the information you are seeking.

There are, in fact,  some other "paths" you could have taken, but they're not nearly as easy to follow and you end up at pretty much the same places in the end. For example, if you happened to scroll down the landing page, you would have seen 4 clickable topics:
  1. Check for symptoms This takes you to a "COVID-19 Screening Tool," which may or may not be useful to you
  2. Who is at highest risk? This takes you to information you have probably already seen.
  3. What is social distancing? This takes you to a 1 minute video
  4. Frequently asked questions (FAQ) You have probably seen the answers to these FAQs before 
Also, if you were to scroll down still further, you would see some additional topics that may not apply to you or that you have already read above or elsewhere.

Nevertheless, there is, some other information on the CDC site that does not appear to be accessible from links on coronavirus.com, but which you may find to be quite useful, as follows:

This page, although a bit out of date, contains generally useful information about testing, although specifics of testing availability will vary enormously from state to state, so the best source on testing availability is our own state department of health.

This page is quite up to date, although, we hope that only people who must travel are doing so, and that none of these are over 60. 

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