Covid-19 testing may be considered for all close contacts of infected individuals, says CDC after backlash
The CDC faced backlash for changing its guidance earlier this week, saying that tests were not necessary for people who do not develop symptoms after exposure to the virus
After facing backlash for restricting Covid-19 testing to individuals who develop symptoms after getting exposed to an infected patient, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is doing some damage control. Now, the health agency said that screening might be considered for exposed individuals regardless of the symptoms.
Initially, the CDC recommended testing for all individuals exposed to the virus. Earlier this week, the health agency changed its guidance, saying that tests were not necessary for people who do not develop symptoms after coming within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Experts have since criticized the CDC, saying the move could block efforts to slow down the virus as people who show no or delayed symptoms may not isolate themselves, thereby passing on the infection to others.
According to reports, the health agency was pressured into making these changes. "It's coming from the top down," CNN quoted an official as saying. Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said he was involved in the decision-making process due to his surgery. "I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is," he said.
Defending the administration, Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the CDC was under no political pressure. He added early screening of asymptomatic individuals could produce false negatives and contribute to the virus’s spread, according to Reuters.
What is CDC's most recent statement?
Robert Redfield, the Director of CDC, issued a clarification saying, “Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable Covid-19 patients.” He went on to add: “Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives. Everyone who needs a Covid-19 test can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”
Still, the controversial guidance continues to remains on the website. "I’m very confused by it," Dr Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, told The New York Times. "I really do not understand what the CDC is thinking, and it doesn’t make sense from an infectious disease standpoint," he added. Other experts have also agreed. "What we need from the CDC is clear, specific, directive guidance," Dr Leana Wen, a former health commissioner of Baltimore, told The New York Times. "It shouldn’t be a Rorschach blot that we’re looking at, and everybody’s getting a different response by looking at the same guidance."
What is more, states such as Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, and New York said they would continue to test asymptomatic people who have crossed paths with infected individuals. Texas and Florida have said they would evaluate CDC's recommendations as they continue to offer tests to every exposed individual. "This 180-degree reversal of Covid-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the (CDC’s) reputation," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut.