People exposed to Covid-19 but without symptoms don't need tests, says CDC but experts call move 'dangerous'
Experts have expressed concern over the revised guidance, saying it is a huge problem if people are getting exposed and are not getting themselves tested or isolated
Walking back on its previous guidance for Covid-19 screening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that people who do not show Covid-19 symptoms do not necessarily need a test, even if they have crossed paths with an infected individual. Experts are worried about the health agency's move.
The CDC does not recommend testing if people do not develop symptoms after coming within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. The same applies to people who have been in an area with high Covid-19 transmission, either attending a public or private gathering — without widespread mask-wearing or physical distancing. However, individuals who are vulnerable or are advised a test by the state or local authories can get themselves screened after exposure, the CDC wrote on its website. Earlier, the health agency urged for screening every individual exposed to the virus.
"This is potentially dangerous," Dr Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, California, told The New York Times. "I feel like this is going to make things worse." It is a huge problem if people are getting exposed, but are not getting themselves tested or isolated, she added. She urged exposed individuals to quarantine themselves and consider seeking a test, saying, "We still need to be careful."
The development comes after US President Donald Trump blamed testing for the surge in cases, asking officials to slow it down. Experts have since dismissed Trump's statement, saying that the spike was mostly due to the disease spreading widely. Besides, research has suggested that over half of the transmission is caused by people who develop delayed symptoms (presymtomatic). So screening can help officials detect the virus early, thereby slowing down further community spread of Covid-19.
"It seems as though this new guidance is actively discouraging people from seeking testing, even if they have a known exposure," Dr Angela Rasmussen, from Columbia Public Health in New York City, told NBC News. "We need more testing, not less."
"It's like they're saying we don't have enough tests," Dr Michael Saag, an infectious disease physician and associate dean for global health at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told NBC News. "In my opinion, if a community or municipality has sufficient testing, they should continue to use the testing and ignore this recent update."
Speaking about the revised CDC guidance, a spokesperson from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told NYT that they recommend asymptomatic testing "when directed by public health leaders or health care providers", adding that the decision to test should be "based on individual circumstances and the status of community spread".
The US has reported more than 5.7M cases and more than 178,000 deaths so far. And according to reports, more college students are testing positive for Covid-19. On August 24, the University of Alabama said at least 500 students tested positive after reopening for in-person classes on its campuses. Previously, on August 17, the University of Southern California (USC) reported more than 100 cases.