US now says asymptomatic people don't need virus test after exposure
Travelers wearing protective suits, facemasks, face shields and gloves walk past walk to the ride share area August 20, 2020 at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California.
AFP/Robyn Beck
US now says asymptomatic people don't need virus test after exposure
(Agence France-Presse) - August 27, 2020 - 7:52am

WASHINGTON, United States — After previously encouraging people without Covid-19 symptoms to get tested if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the virus, US health authorities have abruptly reversed their position without a clear explanation.

The changes in guidance were quietly made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website on Monday amid US media reports of political interference from the White House.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the US should do less testing, and blamed testing for making it appear as though the country is doing poorly against the pandemic.

This is not true: though the US is testing at a high level, that is because its outbreak is worse than any other country in the world, with more than 5.8 million confirmed cases and almost 180,000 deaths.

The CDC's site previously said: "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 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."

Fauci critical

In a call with reporters, senior health department official Brett Giroir said, "The new guidelines are a CDC action. As always, guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation and input from (coronavirus) Task Force experts."

Giroir did not elaborate on what new evidence had led to the guidance. 

But he said that the documents had been seen by other senior officials including the widely respected Anthony Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci later denied this, telling CNN: "I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations.

"I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is," he added.

Fauci had surgery last Thursday to remove a vocal cord polyp.

The CDC has previously emphasized that between 40-50 percent of people with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and therefore getting tested is important to stop the spread of the virus.

Many other health experts also reacted with dismay. 

"I still can't make sense of @CDCgov change in guidance," tweeted Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University and former health commissioner of Baltimore.

"An estimated 40-50% of people with #covid19 are asymptomatic. Those exposed to the virus need to know to protect their family members & the public. One has to wonder: is this change because we don't have enough tests?"

Both The New York Times and CNN quote officials saying that the CDC was instructed to change its guidelines following pressure from the president.

The Trump administration has previously been accused of pressuring the CDC to change its guidance on reopening schools, weighting its recommendations heavily in favor of in-person learning.

The political neutrality of the Food and Drug Administration was also questioned this week when its chief, Stephen Hahn, joined Trump in misrepresenting a key statistic about the effectiveness of blood plasma.

ASYMPTOMATIC NOVEL CORONAVIRUS UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 24, 2020 - 4:04pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 24, 2020 - 4:04pm

The Department of Health reports 2,057 additional cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the national tally to 367,819.

To date, there are 47,773 active cases. The DOH registers 19 new deaths and 442 additional recoveries.

October 24, 2020 - 2:32pm

Poland's president tests positive for COVID-19, an official says.

October 24, 2020 - 1:24pm

A record of nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported in the United States, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Between 8:30 pm Thursday and the same time Friday, 79,963 infections were recorded, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to nearly 8.5 million in the country.

The United States had already approached the bar of 80,000 daily cases in July, largely due to new infections in southern states such as Texas and Florida, where the virus was then spreading out of control. — AFP

October 24, 2020 - 10:40am

The northern hemisphere is facing a crucial moment in fighting the COID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization says, with too many countries witnessing an exponential increase in coronavirus cases.

"The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual press conference.

"Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity -- and we're still only in October. — AFP

October 23, 2020 - 7:21am

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted full approval to the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, after conditional authorization was given in May.

Gilead said the drug, sold under the brand name Veklury, was the only specific treatment for COVID-19 approved so far under a more rigorous process.

However, other treatments have received authorization for emergency use, though that approval can be revoked once the public health emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Other medications, like the steroid dexamethasone, are also being used in the fight against COVID-19. The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted full approval to the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, after conditional authorization was given in May. — AFP

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