CDC testing guidance was published against scientists' objections

The Times says the Trump administration'dropped the guidance into the CDC's website flouting the agency's review process

The agency now recommends testing anyone who could have caught the infection from a close contact, symptoms or not, much as it did earlier this year.

The prior recommendation stated that you "do not necessarily need a test" if asymptomatic but had close contact with an infected person.

"If you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms, you need a test", the CDC posted on its website Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention essentially returned to its previous testing guidance, getting rid of language posted last month that said people didn't need to get tested if they didn't feel sick.

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, defended the policy, asserting that screening asymptomatic contacts of infected people was unhelpful and testing should focus on individuals with symptoms.

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The latest confusing public health messaging comes after President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that one of his top health officials was "confused" when he publicly announced a COVID-19 vaccine timeline that Trump does not agree with, McClatchy News reported. Those remarks, in turn, followed President Trump's repeated complaints about excessive testing. She told the Times that a guideline "suggesting that asymptomatic people don't need testing is just a prescription for community spread and further disease and death". However, reporting quickly emerged that CDC officials felt forced to accept the changes. But the news organization reported that the HHS rewrote and then "dropped" the guidance into the website of CDC, flouting the review process of the agency.

The NYT also reported that scientists at the CDC strenuously objected to the new guidelines but were told by senior staff in an email obtained by the NYT that: "We do not have the ability to make substantial edits".

This snafu is only the latest indication that much of the country's public health response to covid-19 has been co-opted by politically motivated administration officials. While former CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, says the agency is overwhelmingly fair and careful with its documents, he and others say the injection of potentially politically motivated messages challenges CDC's independence and effectiveness and potentially hurts its credibility. The HHS revisions contained inaccuracies such as saying "testing for COVID-19" instead of for the virus that causes it.

The Independent has contacted the CDC and HHS for a comment.

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