CDC director clarifies guidelines on COVID-19 testing after health experts question change

WASHINGTON — UPDATE: Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered clarification regarding the new COVID-19 testing guidelines released by the agency Wednesday that raised questions in the heath care community.

“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,” Redfield said Thursday morning in a statement to the media.

The New York Times reports that the new guidelines remain posted on the CDC’s website and are unlikely to be changed.

Read the original report below.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing new guidelines when it comes to testing for the coronavirus.

The CDC said this week that testing is now not necessary for those who have been in close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19, The Associated Press reported.

Previously, the CDC had said to test people who have been within 6 feet of someone who was infected for more than 15 minutes. Now the CDC says testing isn’t needed for people without symptoms who were in close contact, the AP reported.

You can read the testing suggestions directly from the CDC here.

But there is one exception, people with preexisting health problems or if a doctor or local health officials suggest testing is needed.

The CDC has routinely said that 40% of those infected don’t show symptoms.

The change in direction seems to have come not directly from the CDC, but rather its parent agency the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is expected to hold a briefing to answer questions, the AP reported.

When asked by ABC News, HHS said the changes were made to make sure testing was “used appropriately” and to “place an emphasis on testing individuals for post clinical and/or public health reasons.”

“CDC recommends the decision to be tested should be one made in collaboration with public health officials or your health care provider based on individual circumstances and the status of the community spread,” HHS said in a statement, according to ABC News.

News outlets are reporting that health experts are confused about the changing guidelines.

Citing cases where people were exposed to the virus and want to be tested to protect family, “These are exactly the people who should be tested,” Dr. Lean Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor, told CNN.

Wen also served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

Wen said via Twitter that asymptomatic transmission accounts for up to 50% cases.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, said the change could be because of testing supply issues that have delayed results, as well as the Trump Administration, which wants to see the numbers of positive cases drop and discouraging testing is one way, the AP reported.

Some have strong words about the change.

“This is potentially dangerous,” Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, and infectious disease physician told The New York Times. “You’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease. I feel like this is going to make things worse.”

“I think it’s bizarre,” Daniel Larremore, a mathematician and infectious diseases modeler at the University of Colorado Boulder, told the Times. “Any move right now to reduce levels of testing by changing guidelines is a step in the wrong direction.”

The testing change came within the same week of changes the CDC made to the recommendations for self-quarantine after traveling.

The CDC had said that anyone who traveled internationally should self-quarantine for 14 days. The suggestion also applied to travel to coronavirus hot spots within the United States.

But the CDC recently changed its stance, not issuing a blanket quarantine timeframe applying to all international travel, and now basing it on individual countries, USA Today reported.