Most US states reject CDC’s new COVID-19 testing guidelines for asymptomatic people

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Heather Brown, right, is tested for COVID-19 at a new walk-in testing site at Chief Sealth High School on Friday, August 28, 2020, in Seattle.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

A majority of U.S. states have rejected the Trump administration’s new COVID-19 testing guidelines in an extraordinary rebuke from the nation’s top disease prevention agency, state health agency officials and local authorities say. public statements reviewed by Reuters.

At least 33 states continue to recommend testing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, rejecting guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week that testing might be unnecessary. Sixteen states did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and North Dakota said it had not made a decision.

Among the states that break with the federal government are the conservative-leaning Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.

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Public health experts have said a break of this magnitude with the CDC could be unprecedented and show growing distrust of the Trump administration and its response to the pandemic.

“These are almost all states rebelling against the new guidelines,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The CDC said on Monday that people exposed to COVID-19 but not symptomatic “do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable person or your health care provider or public health authorities state or local recommend that you make one. “

The CDC had previously recommended testing of all people who had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. This remains the policy of at least 30 states. Some who haven’t changed their policy said they were studying the CDC’s guidelines.

Admiral Brett Giroir, deputy health secretary for the HHS, said in a statement to Reuters that the guidelines “have been updated to reflect current evidence and best public health practice, and to put more emphasis on the use of prevention strategies approved by the CDC.

He said this focused on screening people with symptoms of COVID-19, people exposed to significant exposure and vulnerable populations, which include asymptomatic people that local public health officials choose to donate. priority to tests.

Some state leaders and public health experts accuse the administration of using politics rather than science to guide its response to the pandemic.

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“This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, not science-based, and has the potential to damage (CDC’s) long-term reputation,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Governors of New Jersey and Connecticut said in a statement, rejecting the CDC’s new guidance.

Giroir said in a press call on Wednesday that there was no political pressure from the administration. He said testing asymptomatic patients too early could produce false negatives and contribute to the spread of the virus.

“There’s no point in having a test for five to seven days (after infection) because you’re not going to be positive,” said David Battinelli, chief medical officer of Northwell Health, acknowledging concerns about too much testing. early. “There is a lot of unnecessary testing going on.”

Idaho recommends that people exposed to COVID-19 contact their doctors to determine if they need testing. This was among the states that did not respond to a request for comment on CDC guidance.

Public health officials believe the United States needs to conduct testing more frequently, that finding asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 is crucial to slow the spread, and CDC comments could risk discouraging needed testing .

Even before the CDC guidelines, the number of coronavirus tests conducted was declining. The United States tested an average of 675,000 people per day last week, up from a peak of more than 800,000 people per day in late July.

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Nationally, cases have fallen for five straight weeks, but infections are on the rise again in the US Midwest, with four states reporting a record one-day increase in cases on Thursday as the death toll in the United States rose climbed above 180,000.

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