CDC Recalls Its Guidelines on Coronavirus Testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday reversed a controversial recommendation made last month suggesting that people who have had close contact with someone infected with Covid-19 don’t need to get tested for it if they show no symptoms. The August revision included exceptions for “vulnerable” individuals and testing required by health care providers or state and local public health officials.

It was later revealed that the recommendation, made on August 24, came from political appointees in the Trump administration, according to an investigation by the New York Times. The change allegedly ran counter to the advice of scientists at the CDC. The decision did not undergo the agency’s usual review process, according to the reports. The authors of that recommendation, Michael R. Caputo, the Health and Human Services Department’s top spokesman, and Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser for the department, have left their positions–temporarily, in Caputo’s case. 

In the interim, the backlash from the scientific community has been fierce. The Infectious Diseases Society of America, for instance, suggested that the guidance could cause greater harm. The medical association pointed to the potential for the disease to spread without restraint during the 2-to-14-day delay in the onset of Covid-19 symptoms, when many individuals may be the most contagious, often called the pre-symptomatic stage. Experts also told Inc. last month that the CDC’s shift change didn’t seem “consistent with the information the organization had been putting out” regarding the virus.

Covid-19 testing, especially in the workplace, is no easy feat. In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor authorized employers to conduct limited medical exams, such as taking temperatures and conducting coronavirus tests, in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. On the contrary, depending on the state businesses are paying tens of thousands to foster workplace testing among employees. Even so, as the practice becomes more widespread, which may be the case now that the CDC has reversed itself on this point, it could become cheaper.  

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