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A key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force wasn’t in the meeting that decided on the updated CDC guidelines that say people without COVID-19 symptoms may not need to get tested.
Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was undergoing surgery and not in the August 20 task force meeting.
On Monday, the CDC updated the testing recommendations on its website. According to the change, people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 may not need to be tested if they don’t have symptoms. Previously, the website said that testing was recommended for everyone who has close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
“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,” Fauci said. “In fact, it is.”
On Wednesday, reporters asked Admiral Brett Giroir, the COVID-19 testing coordinator, whether the new guidelines were approved by the task force. He said that “all the docs signed off on this,” even before it moved to the task force level, according to CNN.
Public health officials have criticized the update and said the change could discourage testing among asymptomatic people who are spreading the virus. The new guidelines also surprised some federal health officials who are typically briefed on coronavirus updates, CNN reported.
“It’s coming from the top down,” one federal health official told CNN, saying that the CDC was pressured to change the guidance.
Later on Wednesday, both Giroir and CDC Director Robert Redfield issued statements to CNN with the exact same phrasing— that the “updated guidelines were coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”
In addition, Redfield said that anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms, wear a mask, follow social distancing guidelines and ask their doctor whether a test is necessary.
“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,” he told CNN. “Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”
CNN, “Fauci says he was in surgery when task force discussed CDC testing guidelines.”
CDC, “Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).”
CNN, “CDC was pressured ‘from the top down’ to change coronavirus testing guidance, official says.”