Newly updated CDC guidelines say individuals exposed to coronavirus may not need testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer says that viral testing is strictly necessary for people with recent or suspected exposure to someone with the virus

Updated: August 26, 2020 - 5:09pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its recommendation for testing people for the coronavirus who have been exposed to someone with the illness, even if the person in question was not exhibiting any symptoms.

On Monday, the CDC updated those guidelines to say "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 change in guidance has raised some concern among physicians. 

"These are are exactly the people who should be tested," said Dr. Leana Wen on CNN's "New Day." Wen, an emergency physician, said that she worries that "these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with Covid-19 now doesn't need to get tested." 

Despite the changed guidelines, the CDC site still states: "It is important to realize that you can be infected and spread the virus but feel well and have no symptoms" but "not everyone needs to be tested." 

At present, the agency estimates that about 40% of coronavirus infection transmission is asymptomatic, and 50% occurs before symptoms are detected.  

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said that the change in guidance will not impact contact tracing efforts. HHS also says that individuals should consult with their physicians or local health officials to decide if personal testing is necessary.

The CDC's website previously read, "Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested."

It now reads: "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."