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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

CDC Revises Controversial Testing Guidelines

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

After widespread criticism from the medical community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped a controversial recommendation that de-emphasized the importance of testing asymptomatic contacts of COVID-19 cases.

In a “clarification” issued Sept. 18, 2020, the CDC stated, “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The previous version that caused the uproar — particularly since the CDC had been emphasizing the importance of contact tracing because 40% of cases are asymptomatic — included this guidance on Aug. 24, 2020: “If you are in a high COVID-19 transmission area and have attended a public or private gathering of more than 10 people (without widespread mask wearing or physical distancing): 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 revised version drops the “not necessarily” qualifier, now reading, “If you are in a high SARS-CoV-2 transmission zone and attended a public or private gathering of more than 10 people (without universal mask wearing and/or physical distancing):

  • Your healthcare provider or public health official may advise a SARS-CoV-2 test.
  • If you are tested, you should self-isolate at home until your test results are known, and then adhere to your healthcare provider’s advice. A negative test does not mean you will remain negative at any time point after that test.
  • Even if you have a negative test, you should wear a mask, physically distance, avoid crowds and indoor crowded places, wash your hands frequently, and monitor yourself for symptoms.
  • Take special precautions in the home to protect any person(s) with increased risk of severe illness according to CDC guidelines.