The agency now says anyone exposed to an infected person for more than 15 minutes needs a test. An earlier guideline saying it might not be necessary had shocked public health experts.
By Apoorva Mandavilli
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed a controversial recommendation suggesting people who have had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus do not need to get tested if they have no symptoms.
The change comes after widespread criticism of the earlier guideline, as well as reporting from The New York Times that the recommendation came from political appointees in the Trump administration and skipped the agency’s usual rigorous scientific review.
The previous phrasing, which suggested asymptomatic people who have had close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test,” now clearly instructs them: “You need a test.”
Public health experts welcomed the change as consistent with research showing that people without symptoms can spread the virus to others.
“It’s good to see science and evidence taking a front seat for a change,” said Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “It has been a wild few weeks.”
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, said, “I’m thrilled to see it, it clearly needed to be done.” But he worried the damage to the agency’s credibility would be long-lasting.
The original guidance, posted on Aug. 24, drew sharp criticism even from the C.D.C.’s partners, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which urged its members to continue testing people without symptoms.
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