The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to “clarify” confusing and controversial changes made to its guidance about testing people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.
“We are working on a clarification document related to the diagnostic and public health use of testing,” Redfield told a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“We have never recommended against asymptomatic testing. You’ll see in the clarification we are making it very clear asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission is important, and making it very clear if you have been exposed to somebody, you need to be tested and contact traced,” Redfield added.
Testing guidelines were changed on CDC’s site quietly, without public notice, on Aug. 24.
Here’s what the CDC website said previously: “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.”
The site was changed on Aug. 24 to say: “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.”
Redfield said the agency would post new guidance updating those changes, which were broadly denounced by public health experts. “We are going to come out with that hopefully, I hope before the end of the week,” Redfield told the hearing.
He said testing is important not only for diagnosing cases, but for screening groups to find cases that are not obvious. “Screening can be very powerful,” he said. It can help schools reopen and help people get back to more normal lives, he added.
Now that more tests are available, Redfield said, the CDC will also encourage surveillance testing, which can help find cases that might otherwise go unnoticed until an outbreak has started.