The People's CDC is a collective of public health practitioners, scientists, and others working to reduce the harmful impacts of COVID-19

If you are still concerned about COVID and want to continue mitigation practices, but are also wary of the CDC and suspicious that its COVID maps and recommendations are influenced by corporate interests (hint: the answer is yes, they are!), then I've found your people. Please check out the People's CDC, a group that is working in the true interests of the public, to provide research, information, and education about COVID-19. The group also explicitly focuses on issues of equity and justice, as it provides research and action regarding how the pandemic has affected different populations and how we might address those unequal impacts, which usually fall along race, class, and gender lines. They state, "the desires of corporate America have been prioritized over the health needs of our people — especially our most vulnerable." 

On their website they describe themselves in this way:

The People's CDC is a collective of public health practitioners, scientists, healthcare workers, educators, advocates and people from all walks of life working to reduce the harmful impacts of COVID-19.

We provide guidance and policy recommendations to governments and the public on COVID-19, disseminating evidence-based updates that are grounded in equity, public health principles, and the latest scientific literature.

Working alongside community organizations, we are building collective power and centering equity as we work together to end the pandemic.

The People's CDC is volunteer-run and independent of partisan political and corporate interests and includes anonymous local health department and other government employees.

One of the best public educational campaigns the People's CDC has started focuses on how to read the various "COVID spread" maps the CDC provides on its website. Front and center when you go to the CDC's COVID information pages is a map the CDC calls "Community Levels." If you go look at it now, you'll see it looks pretty and pastel green and nonthreatening. Looking at this map, you're led to believe the pandemic is basically over and everything looks fine! This map, however, which was introduced in February 2022, is based on calculations that only show if COVID is overwhelming hospitals. However, this is a lagging indicator and ignores how much COVID is actually circulating in any given area. It also feeds the narrative that COVID is mild and harmless, and that the only thing we need to worry about is whether we end up in a hospital or die — this sidesteps the very real concerns of long COVID, which some studies indicate can occur in 1 in 5 people who are infected with COVID.  

Now take a look at the "COVID Transmission Per Capita" map, which is based on confirmed COVID case numbers from local public health departments. It's now almost completely red, meaning that in almost every county in the country, community transmission is high. This map shows that almost the entire country is in a COVID surge. This is the true snapshot (well, it's not even a true snapshot because it actually UNDERcounts spread, because many people can or no longer test or because many people just test at home), but the "Community Levels" map, that the CDC puts front and center, masks the true state of the pandemic. 

In an article the People's CDC wrote for The Guardian, they further explain their critique of the CDC's forwarding of its "Community Levels" map:

The resulting shift from a red map to a green one reflected no real reduction in transmission risk. It was a resort to rhetoric: an effort to craft a success story that would explain away hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths and the continued threat the virus poses. These new guidelines are at odds with evidence-based and equitable public health practice in three fundamental ways. 

. . . They do not intend to prevent disease spread. By minimizing the importance of new cases, and focusing instead on hospitalizations–a lagging indicator–the revamped warning system delays action until surges are well underway and the consequences of severe disease and death are already in motion. Making matters worse, at-home tests are not recorded in the US, so the only "early indicator" in the risk level calculation grossly undercounts the true number of cases.

. . . The guidelines are blatantly political. The new recommendations aim to convince the public that this pandemic is over when it is not. They suggest we tolerate the nearly one million US dead, and too-quickly abandon measures that would keep that number from growing. They suggest we continue to isolate those with chronic illness and disability while the rest return to "normal" life. They suggest Long Covid isn't the rapidly growing crisis that it is, especially for those fully vaccinated, despite documented risks of ongoing and sometimes disabling symptoms. They dismiss the near-inevitable emergence of new variants. They dismiss the urgency to vaccinate the rest of the world.

So, if you're like me and want to stay on top of the actual COVID pandemic reality, please visit the People's CDC and spread the news to other like-minded folks!