CDC guidelines now say those exposed to COVID-19 may not need testing if asymptomatic; Tri-state governors react

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ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines for COVID-19 testing, now saying those who have been in close contact with someone who has had the virus may not need to be tested.

The CDC changed the recommendations on its website Monday in a surprise move.

The site now says: “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.”

Under the previous guidelines, testing was appropriate for those with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.

The CDC has yet to explain the updated guidelines, which have left many doctors and lawmakers puzzled.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy released a joint statement Thursday following the CDC’s new recommendations:

“The CDC has been a consistent, credible, and reliable guide for our nation for decades, providing clear and science-based guidance on everything from infectious disease to vaccines. That role is vital to our collective public health and it must continue. This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the institution’s reputation.

CDC and HHS have not shared their scientific rationale for this change in policy, which substitutes sound science-based public health guidance with the President’s misinformation. This abrupt and ill-informed shift threatens the robust testing regimes our states have worked tirelessly to stand up with our federal partners.

Health experts recommend testing close contacts of individuals with COVID-19 to identify and prevent asymptomatic spread. This type of robust testing by our states has been a key factor in our success so far to flatten the curve in the tristate area.

New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will continue to follow the advice of health experts to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and therefore will not be changing our guidance that prioritizes testing for this population.”

Governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told CNN that the changes make no sense.

“These are exactly the people who should be tested … I’m concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with Covid-19 now doesn’t need to get tested,” Wen said.

“This is key to contact tracing, especially given that up to 50% of all transmission is due to people who do not have symptoms. One wonders why these guidelines were changed — is it to justify continued deficit of testing?” she asked.

A representative for the Department of Health and Human Services told CNN the change would not affect contact tracing efforts key to controlling the virus.

“The updated guidance does not undermine contact tracing or any other types of surveillance testing,” the spokesperson said. “The guidance fully supports public health surveillance testing, done in a proactive way through federal, state, and local public health officials.”

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