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Change in COVID-19 testing recommendations by CDC leaves experts wondering: is this science or politics?

photo by arek socha courtesy of

On August 24, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed their recommendations for testing of people who have been exposed to other people with COVID-19 (or who have been in an environment where the virus is spreading): now they say a test is not needed unless you have symptoms. It doesn’t say, wait a few days after exposure to get tested (which might make sense, since it takes an average of 4-5 days to come down with an infection after you are exposed)– it just says, you don’t need to be tested.

This change left a lot of experts scratching their heads. What if you were exposed and caught the infection, but had no symptoms? Aren’t you equally at risk of passing it on and aren’t you just as dangerous to others?

We know that a large proportion of people who are infected by SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have no symptoms. Anywhere from 20% to 80%, depending on which study you read (an average of 40%) of those infected are asymptomatic. However, other studies show that they can just as easily pass on their infections as those who are sick. In fact, if they don’t know that they are contagious, they could pass it on more easily because they won’t isolate themselves.

Now, if you didn’t know that a) you might have it and be asymptomatic and b) you could still easily pass it on, you might think that this is sound advice. But you would be wrong. You could kill your grandfather (who has diabetes and high blood pressure) or your disabled baby nephew (who has an immune deficiency.) Is that good or bad?

This is what the recommendation dated July 22 from CDC says: “Viral testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with COVID-19.” If you click on the “hyperlink” associated with the words “all close contacts” it takes you to a page about “Contact Tracing” which discusses in-depth everything you need to know about– you guessed it– finding and testing everyone who came into “close contact” with a known case.

This is what the recommendation dated August 24 from CDC says: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms: 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.” Note that there is nothing about the incubation period (the time between exposure and infection.)

Now, I don’t know about you (maybe you’re not paranoid– yet) but that, to me, sounds suspiciously like a way to avoid testing people rather than a way to track down and isolate everyone who might be infected so that you can contain a highly contagious disease. In the long run, the effect of this guidance or recommendation will be to allow more asymptomatic people to pretend that everything is fine while they go around spreading the disease to unsuspecting contacts.

Especially if they don’t bother to wear a mask and don’t wash their hands after every contact with another individual who is not in their own household. Nor would they trouble themselves to avoid crowds of other people not wearing masks. Just like Typhoid Mary (remember her?)

So Governor Cuomo of New York State came out on TV and said he was going to ignore that new advice from the CDC. I am going to follow his lead, but I’m not going to ignore it altogether. I’m going to store it up in my head in a mental file with all the other gaslighting attempts that come from politicians who get tested multiple times a day and don’t let anyone who hasn’t been tested come within shouting distance.

Footnote: A Washington Post story today at 3:27 PM EDT says that Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the Coronavirus Task Force, pushed for this change in “guidance” and has stated publicly that “fewer people need tests for the virus” (according to the story.) Apparently the CDC change was pushed by the task force. Admiral Brett Giroir, a task force member, claimed that this related to the idea that someone without symptoms should not be tested on “day two” after exposure because such a test would likely not be valid– but that’s not what the guidance says.

It’s true that the ideal time to test someone without symptoms after exposure would be more like a week to two weeks– but, again, that’s not what the guidance says. This is also unrelated to the shortage in tests and the long turn-around time for results, according to the story. Once again, this is wrong and should not be trusted.

Dr. Atlas, a physician, is not an infectious disease specialist and is a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University. Herbert Hoover, it should be remembered, is the president who preceded Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and who did little or nothing to help the US during the worst days of the Great Depression– where we are headed now, only on the heels of a deadly contagious virus pandemic. This new guidance shows that the CDC has been corrupted by the ideas of the Con Man in Chief. Be very, very afraid.

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