Adjustments to recommendations put forth by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aren’t unexpected. In fact, they’re essential to help the public remain informed and updated on important health issues.
Since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has made several changes to its COVID-19 guidelines in order to reflect the facts and trends identified in ongoing research studies.
However, the CDC’s most recent recommendation change has sparked widespread confusion, doubt, and concern.
What Do the New CDC Guidelines State?
At the end of August, the CDC updated its testing guidelines to suggest that people without symptoms no longer need to be tested for COVID-19, even if they have been in contact with others who tested positive.
“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,” read the new update.
This marks a significant change from earlier recommendations, which highly encouraged testing as a critical way to determine if any individual had been exposed to the virus.
The older archived version of the CDC’s testing guidelines stated: “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. 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.”
Dr. Fauci’s Reaction to New CDC Guidelines
Many experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, were surprised by the CDC’s sudden change.
“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,” said Fauci in response.
A spokesperson from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which Fauci directs, explained Fauci’s rationale more. “If people who come into close and prolonged contact with a documented case of COVID-19 become infected and are asymptomatic and are not tested and given results in a timely fashion, then asymptomatic spread to others could occur.”
Other experts have agreed. “This is potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, California. She worries that failing to encourage testing beyond people with obvious symptoms will mean “you’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease,” she added. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”
In response, the Department of Health and Human Services stated that, “The decision to be tested should be one made in collaboration with public health officials or your health care provider based on individual circumstances and the status of community spread.”