CDC Reverses Its Coronavirus Testing Guidelines Again

The new testing guidelines from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now went back to suggest that people coming in close contact with coronavirus positive individuals should get tested even if they are asymptomatic. The detailed guideline is available on the agency’s website.

Just a while ago, the health agency had taken the stance that people should not get tested after a close contact with corona positive person, which garnered a lot of backlash from public health officials and the medical community.

The new change in the guideline comes after criticism as well as widespread media reporting that the initial change in testing policy came from political appointees in the Trump administration along with the fact that the agency’s usual rigorous scientific review was skipped. Many had said that though it was normal for White House to be involved in policy decisions, the level of interference regarding coronavirus response was unprecedented.

Previously, the CDC site said that asymptomatic people after close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test”. But now it says very clearly to these people that they need a test.

The reversal has been welcomed by public health experts as it has been shown that asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus to others.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, explained that he is worried that the agency has destroyed its credibility for the time, but he was appreciative about the policy reversal. “I’m thrilled to see it, it clearly needed to be done,” said Jha.

The policy to not test at the time was even criticized by CDC partners; the Infectious Diseases Society of America. They at the time had urged people to continue testing. The Society’s President appreciated the return of the health agency to a “science-based based approach for testing guidance”.

Studies show that asymptomatic people can still spread the virus to others. A few studies have even suggested that people are most likely to spread the virus a day before they show any symptoms. This is the time that they have the highest viral loads in their body. The higher the viral load, the more likely is a person to spread the virus.

After the pushback on previous policy, the Director of CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, had clarified that testing can still be considered for people who are not showing symptoms.

According to the new statement released by CDC on Friday, the new policy is “detailed follow-up to Dr. Redfield’s testing guidance clarification statement on August 27”. The statement further clarified that testing asymptomatic people is actually an important part of preventing the disease transmission when it comes to stopping coronavirus infections.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director under Obama said that now the administration should show that “political interference with CDC science will never happen again.”

The statement also corrected some other errors in the previous guideline. Now the guidance accurately refers to infection with the virus, for example, as opposed to the Covid-19 disease as the previous version did. The guidance also does not use the word vulnerable to define at risk individuals.

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