U.S. health officials have sparked criticism and confusion after posting guidelines on coronavirus testing from the White House task force that run counter to what scientists say is necessary to control the pandemic.
The new guidance says it is not necessary for people who don’t feel sick but have been in close contact with infected people to get tested. It was posted earlier this week on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC previously had advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. But on Monday a CDC testing overview page was changed to say that testing is no longer recommended for symptom-less people who were in close contact situations.
There was a caveat, however. Testing may be recommended for those with health problems that make them more likely to suffer severe illness from an infection, or if their doctor or local state officials advise they get tested.
CDC officials referred all questions to the agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. That suggests that HHS ordered the change, not CDC, said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was undergoing surgery and not part of the discussion during the Aug. 20 task force meeting when updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines were discussed.
“I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.