Some states will continue coronavirus testing of asymptomatic individuals exposed to COVID-19, disregarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) surprising reversal of guidance this week when the federal agency said asymptomatic persons exposed to the virus do not need to get tested.
Florida, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut joined health officials in expressing disapproval and concern over the sudden change in guidelines and said they will continue to test those exposed to COVID-19 individuals to help mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus.
“Health experts recommend testing close contacts of individuals with COVID-19 to identify and prevent asymptomatic spread. This type of robust testing by our states has been a key factor in our success so far to flatten the curve in the tri-state area,” the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said in a joint statement sent to Fox News.
“New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will continue to follow the advice of health experts to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and therefore will not be changing our guidance that prioritizes testing for this population,” the statement continued.
“This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the institution’s reputation,” the tristate governors added in the statement.
Florida and California reportedly don’t plan on following the new recommendations, and Texas health officials told Fox News they share a similar sentiment.
“The current Texas guidance recommends testing for all close contacts of a confirmed case because it allows for early case identification among people who are at a higher risk of infection,” a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement to Fox News. “There’s not a planned change at this point, but we are always reviewing our guidance in light of new information about the disease and the situation in Texas to see if it needs to be updated.”
The CDC faced criticism following the sudden reversal earlier this week.
Asymptomatic people who came in contact with infected individuals “do not necessarily need a test,” the federal agency now states. Yet, a few lines down, the CDC also notes that it is “important to realize that you can be infected and spread the virus but feel well and have no symptoms.”
Previously, the CDC had recommended testing of people who had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 to help mitigate virus spread.
The change led to speculation that the federal health agency was pressured politically for the change.
Indeed, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut questioned the reasoning behind the reversed decision.
“CDC and HHS have not shared their scientific rationale for this change in policy, which substitutes sound science-based public health guidance with the President’s misinformation. This abrupt and ill-informed shift threatens the robust testing regimes our states have worked tirelessly to stand up with our federal partners,” the joint statement said.
However, following the changes, federal officials were quick to deny the accusations of political involvement in the decision.
“There is no direction from President Trump. This is evidence-based driven,” said Adm. Dr. Brett M. Giroir, who is assistant secretary for health at the HHS, during a livestreamed media briefing Wednesday.
Following the backlash, however, the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, appeared to walk back the revisions, saying in a statement to Fox News that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”
That said, as of Friday morning the CDC site had not changed the new recommendations on its website.
Various health organizations, such as the Infectious Disease Society of America and the American Medical Association (AMA), are calling for the immediate reversal of the CDC coronavirus testing guidelines as the United States continues to have the most confirmed cases worldwide.
“Evidence has clearly indicated that asymptomatic persons play a significant role in transmissions. Identifying individuals infected with COVID-19 — even if they are asymptomatic — is critical to support appropriate isolation and identification of contacts, to limit spread, and to provide the data-driven, comprehensive view of community spread needed to inform effective public health responses,” the IDSA said in a statement.