CDC’s New COVID Testing Guidelines Trigger Concern

Aug. 26, 2020 — Experts are alarmed about revised U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines advising that people who don’t have symptoms of COVID-19 don’t need to be tested, even if they’ve recently been exposed to the new coronavirus.

The guidelines were quietly changed this week and prompted concern among infectious disease professionals, The New York Times reported.

They noted the importance of identifying infected people in the short period of time immediately before they develop symptoms and may be most contagious.

About half of coronavirus transmissions can be traced back to people in this pre-symptomatic stage, models suggest.

Experts warned that the revised CDC guidelines could delay treatment and lead to wider spread of the coronavirus.

“This is potentially dangerous,” Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, Calif., told the Times. Limiting testing to people with obvious symptoms of COVID-19 means “you’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease,” she said. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”

“I think it’s bizarre,” Daniel Larremore, a mathematician and infectious diseases modeler at the University of Colorado Boulder, told the Times. “Any move right now to reduce levels of testing by changing guidelines is a step in the wrong direction.”

“Wow, that is a walk-back,” Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, told the Times. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and that’s a really big change.”

She’s concerned that people could misinterpret the change in testing guidelines as meaning that people without symptoms can’t pass the coronavirus on to others, a misconception that experts have long tried to dispel.

“If people are getting exposed, and they’re not getting tested, and they’re not isolating, that’s a huge problem,” Kuppalli warned.

“Testing capacity has massively expanded, and we are not utilizing the full capacity that we have developed,” a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told the Times. “We revised the guidance to reflect current evidence and the best public health interventions.”

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