The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday clarified a stance on testing for asymptomatic people exposed to coronavirus following a wave of criticism over an abrupt shift in its guidance.
In a Thursday statement, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that anyone who “needs” a test can still get one, although not everyone who wants one should get one.
“Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives,” Redfield said. “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test.”
However, “everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action,” he added.
The statement came after numerous health officials and politicians raised concerns over the agency’s newest testing guidelines that people without symptoms may not need to be tested even after exposure to the virus.
As of Aug. 24, the CDC’s website read: “You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one.”
The guidance was seen as an abrupt reversal from the CDC’s previous advisory saying that people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes should be tested, even if they were asymptomatic.
The agency said the updated guidelines were coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and “received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”
Moving forward, the agency said it is “placing an emphasis on testing individuals with symptomatic illness, individuals with a significant exposure, vulnerable populations.”
This includes nursing homes or long-term care facilities, critical infrastructure workers, health care workers and first responders. This also applies to individuals who may be asymptomatic “when prioritized by medical and public health officials,” the agency said.
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms, take special precautions to protect the vulnerable, wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, wash their hands, and talk to their health care provider to see if a test is needed, the agency said.