Ready for a convoluted, confusing, and confounding Covid-19 update? Good. Because we’ve got one for you!
Last week, the CDC quietly revised its guidance on coronavirus testing.
The agency dropped its previous recommendation to test everyone who’s come into close contact with a person infected with Covid-19 — even those who don’t have symptoms.
The agency previously advised testing everyone with a “recent known or suspected exposure” to the virus, warning it can be transmitted a few days before symptoms show, as well as testing those with asymptomatic people who never develop them.
However, the new, revised guidelines don’t sit well with some medical groups and lawmakers who raised concern about the new guidance, saying that early and widespread testing of people without symptoms can help contain the outbreak in the U.S.
The CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said in a statement last Wednesday that “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test can get a test.”
He goes on to declare though, that, “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,” adding that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”
He said anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed or probable Covid-19 patient should consult a health-care provider to determine if a test is needed.
Dr. Redfield said that the new guidelines were “coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force,” adding that they “received appropriate attention, consultation, and input from task force experts.”
Here’s where it gets interesting, or at the very least, convoluted.
Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who leads the Trump administration’s testing effort, defended the policy change, saying it empowers local health officials and clinicians, adamantly denying the allegations of bowing to political pressure from the Trump administration by saying, “Let me tell you, right up front that the new guidelines are a CDC action.”
He specified that members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Redfield, discussed and agreed on the new guidelines declaring that, “We all signed off on it, the docs, before it ever got to a place where the political leadership would have even seen it, and this document was approved by the task force by consensus.”
But Dr. Fauci claims that he “was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations.” And, The New York Times reported later last Wednesday that two federal health officials said the CDC was pressured into changing the guidance from top officials at the White House and HHS.
No one seems to know — or wants to take responsibility for — where the new guidance originated, and it’s receiving some severe backlash from the medical and political arenas.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association are calling for the “immediate reversal” of the update in a joint statement saying, “It is essential that public health guidelines be rooted in the best available scientific evidence…Testing asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 remains a critical evidence-based strategy for containing the pandemic and reducing transmission.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, have weighed-in, saying that their states will continue testing asymptomatic people.
“We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance. I consider it political propaganda. I would caution private companies against following the CDC guidance. I think it is wholly indefensible on its face. I think it is inherently self-contradictory. It is the exact opposite of what the CDC has been saying,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters last Wednesday.
Regardless of where it came from, we’re not sure if this will change life as we know it, for anyone. It’s just the latest information in the tangled web that has become our post-COVID world.
The information may be as confusing as ever, but one thing has never changed. We are still trucking along, offering guidance and giving you tools to live your best life. Keep fueling your body, mind, and spirit with the good stuff.
And keep washing your hands.