Asymptomatic People No Longer Require CCP Virus Test: New CDC Guidance

Fauci says he was undergoing surgery when task force discussion took place
August 27, 2020 Updated: September 1, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has narrowed its CCP virus testing recommendations to say that asymptomatic people no longer need to be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“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 CDC said Monday in its updated guidelines.

People who have no symptoms of COVID-19 “do not necessarily need a test,” even if they have been in close contact (within 6 feet) with an individual who has tested positive for the virus for at least 15 minutes, the CDC now recommends.

However, individuals who are “vulnerable”  are exempt from these recommendations, the federal agency said. The CDC recommends that individuals should get tested if their health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend they do so.

“A negative test does not mean you will not develop an infection from the close contact or contract an infection at a later time,” the CDC said. “It is important to realize that you can be infected and spread the virus but feel well and have no symptoms.”

The federal agency previously advised that all people who came into close proximity with a COVID-19-positive patient should be tested for the virus, even if they displayed no symptoms.

Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told Fox News in a statement that the updated guidance places emphasis on testing individuals with symptomatic illness or those with a significant exposure to COVID-19.

It also recommends testing vulnerable populations, including residents and staff in nursing homes or long term care facilities, critical infrastructure workers, healthcare workers and first responders, and those individuals (who may be asymptomatic) when prioritized by public health officials.

“And finally, through continuously evaluating the data we know we have strong, proven preventive measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19: wearing a face mask, watching your distance, washing your hands, and avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor spaces,” Giroir added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House pandemic task force member and top infectious diseases expert, meanwhile, told CNN that while the Aug. 20 task force meeting for the discussion on the updated guidelines was taking place, he was undergoing surgery to remove a growth from his vocal cord. Giroir previously signaled that Fauci had signed off on the guidelines when asked by reporters Wednesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci (L), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on April 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

“I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations,” Fauci said.

He added that he is concerned the updated guidelines will downplay the threat of asymptomatic COVID-19 spread.

“I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is,” Fauci said.

Fauci in June highlighted the challenge posed by the high asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, which some research has put at up to 45 percent.

“Asymptomatic persons seem to account for approximately 40 percent to 45 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections, and they can transmit the virus to others for an extended period, perhaps longer than 14 days,” according to the abstract of a study published on June 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“We now know the level of virus in an asymptomatic person is about the same as the level of virus in somebody who has symptoms,” Fauci said at the time in remarks to The Washington Post. “So it’s like, oh my goodness, how do you address that?”

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.