The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says people who’ve been in close contact with a coronavirus-infected person should get a test, reversing controversial guidance that said they might not need one.
Agency officials updated the guidance one day after the New York Times reported that political officials orchestrated the divisive change on Aug. 24, instead of engaging in a scientific review by CDC professionals.
“People who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should be tested, even if they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19. While waiting for test results, it is important to stay home to avoid spreading the disease,” an agency clarification document said. “Even if you have a negative test, you should stay home for 14 days and monitor your health closely if you had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.”
The guidance used to say that you “do not necessarily need a test” if you had contact with a known infection but haven’t shown signs of the disease.
It was an unexpected change that caused an uproar among experts, who said rooting out asymptomatic infections is vital to controlling the spread of the virus.
Officials said scrambled to clarify that people without symptoms could still get tested, especially if local officials or doctors ordered it. They also said they feared that people would get tested too early in their infection, return negative, and then fail to comply with COVID-19 precautions.
Still, the guidance prompted fears of political interference. Officials said there wasn’t a serious limit on testing supplies, so the change was confusing.
“Current science shows that testing people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 is an important part of preventing disease transmission,” the new guidance says. “People who have COVID-19 can still spread the virus before they show symptoms (presymptomatic spread) or if they don’t develop symptoms (asymptomatic spread). As we continue learning more about this disease, CDC may provide additional information about when a person is most likely to test positive and be infectious with COVID-19.”