CDC Director Walks Back Change in Coronavirus Testing Guidelines
The Hill - August 27, 2020

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued new guidance for coronavirus testing, days after a quiet change sparked protests from the scientific and medical communities.

In a statement, Director Robert Redfield said those who come into contact with confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients could be tested themselves, even if they do not show symptoms of the virus.

“Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives. Everyone who needs a Covid-19 test, can get a test. 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 CDC revised its testing guidance earlier this week, limiting tests to those who show symptoms. That change prompted backlash among public health experts who pointed to the role asymptomatic people play in spreading the virus, and concern that the revision had been dictated by political appointees outside of CDC.

Redfield said the guidelines issued on Monday had been coordinated with the White House coronavirus task force. The new guidance comes as the number of coronavirus tests across the United States has slowed in recent weeks.

But even his Thursday statement falls short of previous guidance, in which the CDC recommended contacts of those infected with the virus be tested specifically because of the threat of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission.

After reaching a peak of nearly a million new tests a month ago, the number of tests conducted on a daily basis has declined to fewer than 700,000 over the last four days, according to data maintained by the Covid Tracking Project, an independent group of researchers.

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