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Providers speak out against new testing guidelines

CDC Director Robert Redfield muddied the controversy when he said those who come into contact with an infected person could be tested.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty ImagesPhoto by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

Provider organizations disagree with new federal guidelines stipulating that no COVID-19 test is necessary for individuals who are asymptomatic, even if they have come in contact with an infected person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said that if an individual has been in close contact, within 6 feet, of someone with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, but does not have systems, "You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your healthcare provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one."

The virus is often spread by people who do not have symptoms, according to the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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"Months into this pandemic, we know COVID-19 is spread by asymptomatic people," said Dr. Susan R. Bailey, president of the American Medical Association. "Suggesting that people without symptoms, who have known exposure to COVID-positive individuals, do not need testing is a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus."

The AMA asked the CDC for a rationale on the updated guidance. 

"We urge CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to release the scientific justification for this change in testing guidelines," Bailey said.

Association of American Medical Colleges Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney Jr., MD, and AAMC president and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued the following statement:

"The AAMC is 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% 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." 

The revised guidance will result in less testing when more testing is needed to control the pandemic, the AAMC said. 

"In many parts of the country, the rate of positive testing remains over 10%, demonstrating that the virus is still spreading and that testing rates are inadequate."

Also, controlling the pandemic requires the testing of all contacts of infected individuals, the AAMC said.


The new CDC recommendation reverses previous guidance that individuals exposed to the virus should be tested.

However, on Thursday, the issue became muddied when CDC Director Robert Redfield said those who come into contact with confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients could be tested, even if they do not show symptoms of the virus, The Hill reported.

"Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test," Redfield reportedly said.

"These CDC guidelines go against the best interests of the American people and are a step backward in fighting the pandemic. The AAMC urges the CDC to return to its earlier testing recommendations, and we stand ready to discuss and work with our colleagues at the CDC to optimize future recommendations."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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