The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sparked confusion with its latest COVID-19 guideline revisions regarding asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
On Monday, the government agency quietly changed its guidelines for asymptomatic carriers. The CDC now suggests asymptomatic carriers do not need to be tested for coronavirus.
The revised guidelines read: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms: You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”
The revision is a distinct change from the CDC’s previous guidelines which recommended testing “for all close contacts of persons with” coronavirus.
“Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the previous guidance said. “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.”
Healthcare professionals, infectious disease experts, virologists, and epidemiologists have expressed concern about the CDC’s changes. Many have taken to Twitter to express disapproval of the CDC’s changes.
Dr. Carl Bergstrom, who serves as a biology professor at the University of Washington, sharply criticized the CDC
“Without explanation, the @CDCGov made remarkable and troubling changes to their guidelines on coronavirus testing this week,” Bergstrom tweeted.
He continued, “The most recent guidelines seem to give up any pretense of using contact tracing to control COVID.”
He added, “The whole point of contact tracing is to find asymptomatic contacts of known cases and isolate them. If you aren’t even going to test them? Certainly no point in tracing.”
See some of the reactions below:
Without explanation, the @CDCGov made remarkable and troubling changes to their guidelines on coronavirus testing this week.— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) August 26, 2020
They've gone from indicating testing for all close contacts to suggesting that testing is not necessary for close contacts of known cases. pic.twitter.com/naszBdVXTn
2) Not testing exposed people misses a huge contact tracing opportunity. If I have been exposed but remain asymptomatic, I am at heightened risk for being infected and infectious. You definitely want to test me in that situation, and if I am positive trace my contacts.— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) August 26, 2020
The CDC just revised their testing guidance to exclude people without symptoms. Our work on the ‘silent’ spread underscores the importance of testing people who have been exposed to #COVID-19 regardless of symptoms. This change in policy will kill. https://t.co/5zMctSS4wD— Alison Galvani (@Alison_Galvani) August 26, 2020
.@CDCgov suddenly changed their criteria for #covid19 testing so that someone exposed to an infected person no longer needs testing. This makes no sense. People without symptoms account for up to 50% of transmission. We need MORE testing, not less https://t.co/KKEmGPmSDc— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) August 25, 2020
Now what the hell kind of CDC recommendation is this? We need to be doing MORE testing, not less. https://t.co/hv1bPM5wdj— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) August 24, 2020
Despite concerns about the changes, Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Service, released a statement defending the CDC decision.
“This Guidance has been updated to reflect current evidence and best public health practices, and to further emphasize using CDC-approved prevention strategies to protect yourself, your family, and the most vulnerable of all ages,” Giroir said in a statement.
As of Wednesday morning, there are 5,955,728 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. The death toll stands at 182,404.