Groups endorsing the call for action included the American Public Health Association, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Signed by more than 200 organizations and medical societies, the letter protests changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) testing guidelines, which downplay the need for testing asymptomatic contacts of COVID-19 cases.

“We believe the revision does not reflect the best available science and the best interest of the public’s health and has resulted in confusion among public health and medical professionals and the public, the letter states. We ask the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reverse the revision.”1

The letter’s key points include the following:

By [the] CDC’s own estimation, about 40 percent of infections are asymptomatic, meaning people who do not know they are infected are a significant source of transmission. Identifying individuals infected with COVID-19 even if they are asymptomatic is critical to support appropriate isolation and quarantine measures, identification of contacts, to limit spread, and to provide the comprehensive view of community spread needed to inform effective public health responses.

  • Testing of asymptomatic individuals may also be critical for certain high-risk workplaces, such as in nursing homes, and to support safe reopening of schools.
  • By downplaying the importance of testing for asymptomatic individuals, especially those who have been exposed to the virus, these guidelines could precipitate further community spread. We are further concerned that changes to the testing guidelines could reduce insurance coverage for COVID-19 tests by incorrectly calling into question the medical appropriateness of testing on asymptomatic individuals.
  • In a moment when we are continuing to see COVID-19 surges in hot spots across the country and a desire to safely open schools and businesses, we need more testing, not less. The decision may delay the ability of communities to safely reopen and extend the social and economic toll of the pandemic on our communities.
  • Given the shortages in testing supplies and personnel, we support prioritizing testing for symptomatic individuals. However, our goal as a nation should be to expand testing capacity to allow for testing of all recommended individuals, including asymptomatic people who have been in close contact with an infected individual. The solution to testing shortages is not to limit the number of people who are tested but to expand the availability of tests.

Reference

  1. American Academy of Family Physicians. Joint letter to Vice President expressing concern on recent COVID-19 testing guidance changes from CDC. Sept. 3, 2020. https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/advocacy/prevention/crisis/LT-WhiteHouse-COVID19TestingGuidelinesConcerns-090320.pdf