WHO on CDC testing guidelines

The World Health Organization weighs in on CDC testing guidlines. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is defending its controversial new guidance on coronavirus testing following outcry from various medical groups and allegations of political intervention.

Earlier this week, the CDC quietly revised its guidance on coronavirus testing, dropping its previous recommendation to test everyone who’s come into close contact with a person infected with Covid-19 — even those who don’t have symptoms. The agency previously advised testing everyone with a “recent known or suspected exposure” to the virus, saying it can be transmitted a few days before symptoms show as well as by asymptomatic people who never develop them.

Medical groups and some lawmakers raised concern about the new guidance, saying that early and widespread testing of people without symptoms can help contain the outbreak in the U.S.

The CDC, which referred calls to the Department of Health and Human Services all day Wednesday, defended the change in a statement from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield released around 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

“Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test,” Redfield said. “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 that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients,” but stopped short of recommending it for those without symptoms. He said anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed or probable Covid-19 patient should consult a health-care provider “to determine if test is needed.”

Redfield said that the new guidelines were “coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force,” adding that they “received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.”

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who leads the Trump administration’s testing effort, defended the policy change, saying it empowers local health officials and clinicians. He also denied allegations of bowing to political pressure from the Trump administration.

“Let me tell you, right up front that the new guidelines are a CDC action,” he said, adding that members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Redfield, discussed and agreed on the new guidelines.

But Fauci later told CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that he “was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations.”

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