On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reverses the agency’s controversial COVID-19 guidance, which said that people who were in close contact with an infected person but did not have any symptoms did not “necessarily need a test.” With the U.S. approaching 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 30 million infections worldwide, the CDC is now recommending that all people who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive should get tested, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms.
Several studies show that people can be carriers of the virus and spread it even if they do not show symptoms or in the presymptomatic stage. The new CDC guidance states that people who don’t present symptoms and have close contact with an infected person should warrant a COVID-19 test. The agency defines “close contact” as being within 6-feet distance from a confirmed COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 minutes. The CDC recommends consulting respective healthcare providers or public health officials so the infection can be quickly identified and tested.
Public health specialists and experts from the World Health Organization have frequently stressed the importance of testing individuals who don’t manifest COVID-19 symptoms. Many experts criticized the CDC’s update in their testing guidance in late August to downplay the significance of testing asymptomatic individuals who might be possibly spreading the virus.
The CDC termed the change in guidance as a “clarification” and recognized the need to test asymptomatic individuals. Within the agency, experts have raised concerns that what happened in August was wrong. It was “not a good public health practice,” according to a federal health official who requested to be anonymous according to a Washington Post article.
According to Trump administration officials, the push to limit the COVID-19 testing was driven by the task force and other federal health officials overseeing the importance of testing. The new CDC guidance is especially crucial because it estimates that up to 40% of people infected with COVID-19 show no symptoms but still may be highly infectious and spread the virus.
Public health experts agree with CDC’s decision last Friday but warned that the political interference that led to last month’s controversial changes and the conflicting messaging surrounding testing undermines the government’s ability to fight the current pandemic Washington Post analysis.