CDC changes testing and self-quarantine guidelines

NYT: US CDC testing guidance was published against scientists’ objections

NYT: US CDC testing guidance was published against scientists’ objections

"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", reads the September 18 update.

The earlier guidance caused alarm in the public health community that data would give an incomplete picture of outbreaks around the country, and The New York Times reported this week that it was published by the Department of Health and Human Services without approval from experts at the CDC.

For those who know they've come into recent close contact with someone who has a documented infection from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 - close contact meaning spending at least 15 minutes 1.83 m or closer to the person - the CDC now simply states: "You need a test".

The CDC also added that if you have pending COVID-19 test results, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home and "stay separated from household members". Friday's guidance update effectively returns the CDC's testing guidance to what it said before it was altered in late August. That change had set off a rash of criticism from health experts who couldn't fathom why the nation's top public health agency would say such a thing amid the pandemic. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who directed the CDC under Obama, told the Times that, "HHS and the White House writing scientifically inaccurate statements such as "don't test all contacts" on CDC's website is like someone vandalizing a national monument with graffiti".

The move quickly sparked backlash among health experts because they thought it would discourage people from getting tested.

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Still, the guidance prompted fears of political interference. Officials said there wasn't a serious limit on testing supplies, so the change was confusing. "People who have COVID-19 can still spread the virus before they show symptoms (presymptomatic spread) or if they don't develop symptoms (asymptomatic spread)". She said local health officials spent a lot time answering questions about whether people should get testing, "as opposed to actually doing the testing".

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Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said the fluctuating guidance amounted to "nuclear-grade incompetence".

The officials of the Donald Trump administration told the New York Times that the documents were produced by the agency and got revised with input from the CDC director Robert Redfield. "Lives are at stake, and nobody can trust the CDC when they keep changing their guidance on testing depending on the political winds".

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