Health

CDC Keeps Flip-Flopping On COVID-19 Testing Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday backtracked its previous guidance on COVID-19 testing, saying that anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested.

A general view of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell
A general view of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday backtracked its previous guidance on COVID-19 testing, saying that anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested.

In a section on its website about COVID-19 testing, the agency said that “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The updated language backtracks on the CDC’s widely condemned revision last month, in which the agency advised people who were exposed to the virus against getting tested for COVID-19 if they didn't feel sick. 

As of Friday, it states that, if you should be tested if you’ve “been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person” infected with COVID-19 “for at least 15 minutes” and “do not have symptoms.” 

The CDC quietly posted last month its more lenient testing guidelines that said only “vulnerable” individuals needed testing after potential COVID-19 exposure, drawing heavy criticism from health officials. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, member of the White House coronavirus task force, said he was “concerned” about the guidance and in surgery when the task force discussed it.

The New York Times reported that the CDC published the guidelines despite objections from agency scientists. The report, which cites internal federal documents and unnamed sources, said that CDC scientists didn’t write the revisions.

CNN also reported that the Trump administration “pressured” the agency to make the revisions.

The Trump administration’s response that failed to contain the virus has in part been attributed to limited testing availability in the earliest stages of the domestic outbreak. As several states saw surges in cases this summer after reopening, President Trump has pointed without evidence to the increasing availability of testing as a potential cause.

As stated in an AP report on the matter, “Public health experts have noted that testing the contacts of infected people is a core element of efforts to keep outbreaks in check, and that a large percentage of those infected with the coronavirus exhibit no COVID-19 symptoms.”