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States Say They Won’t Follow CDC’s Controversial New Coronavirus Testing Guidelines

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 8/27/2020 Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder
a person in a blue shirt: The Associated Press © The Associated Press The Associated Press

The governors of at least five states have said their states will not follow the new controversial coronavirus testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

"New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will continue to follow the advice of health experts to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and therefore will not be changing our guidance that prioritizes testing for this population," the Democratic governors from the tri-state area said in a joint statement. "This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the institution's reputation."

Nevada and California also said they wouldn't be updating their testing guidelines.

The CDC updated its guidelines earlier this week to say that those who come into close contact with a known case of the virus but do not show symptoms "do not necessarily need a test" unless they are vulnerable or their doctor or a state or local public health official recommended one. Previously, the recommendations advised testing everyone who came into close contact with an infected individual, saying that "because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested."

Following criticism, CDC Director Robert Redfield later tried to clarify the recommendation, saying that "testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients." However, the updated guidance online remains unchanged.

[MAP: The Spread of Coronavirus]

"Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test," Redfield said in a statement released this week. "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 the guidelines were "coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force." Leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, however, told CNN that he "was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations."

Fauci, who underwent surgery last week to remove a polyp from his vocal chord, said he is "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."

Several outlets reported that federal officials said the CDC faced pressure to change the guidance from the Trump administration. However, federal testing czar Brett Giroir denied the allegations.

"There was no weight on the scales by the president or the vice president or Secretary Azar," Giroir told reporters on a call this week, referring to the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "We all signed off on it, the docs, before it ever got to a place where the political leadership would have even seen it, and this document was approved by the task force by consensus."

The World Health Organization on Thursday weighed in on the debate, saying that testing should be focused on those who have symptoms unless there is a cluster of cases, in which case "testing may need to be expanded to look for individuals who are on the more mild end of the spectrum or who may indeed be asymptomatic," according to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19.

"Contacts, if feasible, should be tested regardless of the development of symptoms," Van Kerkhove said. "The focus, though, is on those who do develop symptoms."

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