CDC updates testing guidelines again

Sept. 21, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its testing guidelines for SARS-CoV-2, reversing recommendations made last month that asymptomatic people who had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 did not necessarily need to be tested.

In its most recent revision issued September 18, the CDC stated, “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The CDC defines close contact as being within six feet of a person with a documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes.

The revisions made in August had come under fire from public health and other healthcare advocacy groups. For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) said at the time that it was “alarmed at the changes to the CDC’s guidelines for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) testing, which recommends that individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to be tested unless they show symptoms of the disease. This recommendation is irresponsible when we know that roughly 40 percent of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions come from an asymptomatic person. A high proportion of people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop symptoms but are contagious and can infect others who may later develop symptoms.”

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