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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has modified it’s COVID-19 testing guidelines this week to exclude people without symptoms even if they have recent close contact with someone known to have the virus.
Previously, the CDC said that testing for coronavirus infection was necessary for those with suspected exposure, even if they present with no symptoms. However, CDC recently updated their website, saying, “Not everyone needs to be tested.”
The updated CDC guidelines say that if someone had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual but did not develop symptoms, that person may not necessarily need a test. It is only necessary if the person belongs to a vulnerable population or when a healthcare provider or when a local or state public health official recommends one.
The CDC website says that those individuals who experience mild symptoms, a health care provider “may advise a COVID-19 test.” When symptoms are severe, people should seek emergency care or contact a health care provider immediately. For those who don’t present any Covid-19 symptoms and haven’t been exposed to someone with a known infection, the updated guidelines say that they may not need to be tested.
Most experts are questioning this new testing guideline update. They say that it is crucial to identify infections in the short window period before the symptoms occur. This period is when infected individuals are still contagious.
Emergency physician and public health professor Dr. Leana Wen said in a CNN interview on Wednesday that the new changes for the testing guideline make no sense. She emphasized that people who may be exposed to the virus at work are precisely the people who need to be tested to ensure their family’s safety at home.
Experts suggest that around half of COVID-19 transmission events can be traced back to people still in the window period of the “pre-symptomatic stage,” when symptoms are not yet showing.
According to an infectious disease physician Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, this new update of the CDC is “potentially dangerous” and may “make things worse.” Dr. Kuppalli added that limiting testing to individuals who present with COVID-19 symptoms would mean that we are not after people who are potential spreaders of the virus.
According to a senior federal health official interviewed by CNN, the sudden changes in the COVID-19 testing guideline by CDC could be a result of the political pressures from the Trump administration. When CNN asked whether the CDC was countering the Department of Health and Human Services and White House pressures, the senior official responded with, “It’s coming from the top down.”