Public Health Officials Are Begging the CDC to Remove This Guideline
They are saying the CDC's "bad policy" on testing is costing lives amid the COVID pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) latest COVID guideline change has caused a firestorm. On Aug. 24, the agency quietly revised its coronavirus testing guidelines to no longer recommend that those without symptoms get tested for COVID-19, even if they've recently been exposed to the virus. The shift has stunned many medical and public health experts—including Anthony Fauci, MD—and now, multiple health organizations are demanding the government agency drop the new change.
On Aug. 26, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) released a joint statement that called for the CDC to issue an "immediate reversal of the abrupt revision." And on Aug. 27, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), which represent public health departments across the nation, also sent a letter regarding the CDC's new testing guidelines.
"We urge you to pull the revised guidance and revert back to the previous consensus policy where people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to get tested, know their status, and do all they can to physically distance and stop the spread," they write.
Limiting the spread of the coronavirus is challenging because those who are not showing any symptoms can just as quickly spread the virus. If asymptomatic individuals are discouraged from getting tested, they are then more likely to spread COVID-19, unaware they are infected.
In the letter, the public heath experts go on to discuss how a lack of testing asymptomatic patients also prevents successful contact tracing, which has already been a struggle amid the pandemic.
As public health professionals, we are troubled about the lack of evidence cited to inform this change. CDC's own data suggest that perhaps as many as 40 percent of COVID-19 cases are attributable to asymptomatic transmission. Changing testing guidelines to suggest that close contacts to confirmed positives without symptoms do not need to be tested is inconsistent with the science and the data.
"This haphazard decision-making process is bad policy," the letter concludes. "It costs lives and livelihoods and impacts the standing of health officials across the country."
The nation's top immunologist, Anthony Fauci, MD, also took issue with the CDC's newly relaxed testing guidelines, which were decided upon while he was undergoing routine surgery to remove polyps from his vocal cords.
"I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is," Fauci told CNN on Aug. 26.
He added: "I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations."
CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, recently backtracked on the new guidelines in a statement released Aug. 27. Redfield said that testing "may be considered" for asymptomatic individuals who may have been exposed to the contagion.
"Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives," Redfield wrote. "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 did not, however, say he would change the testing guideline on the CDC's website. And if you're worried you might have the virus, check out These Are the 51 Most Common COVID Symptoms You Could Have.