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Carl Bergstrom on CDC guideline changes in The Hill article

Friday, August 28, 2020 - 13:30 to Saturday, November 28, 2020 - 13:30

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quietly changed its guidance on Monday to now say that asymptomatic people do not need to be tested for coronavirus, even if they have been in close contact with an infected person.

The agency made the move by updating its website but did not make any public announcement or explain the reasoning behind the major revision. 

The guidance now states: “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.”

That is a stark change from the previous CDC guidance, which emphasized the importance of testing people who were in close contact with infected people.

“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.”

The move drew widespread criticism and confusion from public health experts, who said that testing to identify asymptomatic people with the virus is important and that the change could undermine contact tracing, a core strategy for slowing the spread of the virus.

“Without explanation, the @CDCGov made remarkable and troubling changes to their guidelines on coronavirus testing this week,” tweeted Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington.

“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.”

Read the full article on The Hill.

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