CDC guidelines now say those exposed to coronavirus may not need testing if asymptomatic

Coronavirus
Rahaana Smith

FILE – In this July 24, 2020, file photo, healthcare worker Rahaana Smith instructs passengers how to use a nasal swab, at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, in Miami. U.S. health officials have sparked a wave of confusion after posting guidelines that coronavirus testing is not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines for COVID-19 testing, now saying those who have been in close contact with someone who has had the virus may not need to be tested.

The CDC changed the recommendations on its website Monday in a surprise move.

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.”

Under the previous guidelines, testing was appropriate for those with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.

The CDC has yet to explain the updated guidelines, which have left many doctors puzzled.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told CNN that the changes make no sense.

“These are exactly the people who should be tested … I’m concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with Covid-19 now doesn’t need to get tested,” Wen said.

“This is key to contact tracing, especially given that up to 50% of all transmission is due to people who do not have symptoms. One wonders why these guidelines were changed — is it to justify continued deficit of testing?” she asked.

A representative for the Department of Health and Human Services told CNN the change would not affect contact tracing efforts key to controlling the virus.

“The updated guidance does not undermine contact tracing or any other types of surveillance testing,” the spokesperson said. “The guidance fully supports public health surveillance testing, done in a proactive way through federal, state, and local public health officials.”

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