The CDC Is Walking Back Its Controversial New Guidelines Amid Backlash
The agency's director is attempting to clarify changes made to the CDC guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been updating the general public on best practices and guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID since the start of the pandemic, touting the importance of things like increased testing alongside other health experts. However, the agency caused waves this week when they quietly made a sudden change to their guidelines, now stating that those without symptoms should not get tested, even if exposed to someone with the virus. And now, amid backlash following that change, the director of the CDC has issued a new statement seemingly walking back the controversial update.
In a new statement released publicly on Aug. 27, director Robert Redfield, MD, attempted to clarify the agency's new guidelines, saying that testing "may be considered" for those who are not showing symptoms for the coronavirus but have been exposed to it. He said that the change in their guidelines is merely meant to place "an emphasis" on the importance of testing people with symptoms.
"Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives," Redfield wrote in his statement. "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."
In the update, the CDC said that those who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient "do not necessarily need a test" if they aren't showing any symptoms. That is, "unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one," they further explained.
Previously, the CDC's testing guidelines said that testing was appropriate for five different groups, including "asymptomatic individuals with recent known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 to control transmission" and "asymptomatic individuals without known or suspected exposure to SARS-CoV-2 for early identification in special settings."
This new change has been heavily criticized by other health officials due to research on asymptomatic patients spreading the coronavirus. Krutika Kuppalli, MD, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, California, told The New York Times that the change was "potentially dangerous" and could "make things worse," as it was likely to create a large wave of missed carriers of the virus.
And the data appears to back up the worries of these health officials. After all, one August study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that asymptomatic patients carried the same amount of virus as symptomatic patients. And the CDC even estimated in May that 40 to 50 percent of all coronavirus transmissions were from people who showed no symptoms, whether they be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.
"Not testing asymptomatic contacts allows COVID to spread. The CDC guidance is indefensible," former CDC director Tom Frieden wrote on Twitter. "No matter who wrote it and got it posted on the CDC site, it needs to be changed." So far, the revised guidelines on the CDC's website have not been updated following the backlash, even after Redfield's clarifying statement. And for more from the agency, The CDC Has New Guidelines About Violent Customers Flouting COVID Rules.