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CDC Director Robert Redfield attempted Thursday to clarify a set of controversial changes to the agency’s Covid-19 testing guidelines.

At issue are a set of guidelines released on Monday that say that people without symptoms who have come into contact with someone with Covid-19 do not necessarily need to be tested. Earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that “testing was recommended” for the same group.

Redfield’s comments Thursday softened the change. He said testing “may be considered” for asymptomatic contacts of people who have confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19. The guidelines, he said, were intended to place “an emphasis” on testing people with symptoms, as well as people in long-term care facilities and nursing homes and people who may be particularly vulnerable to the infection.


The modified guidelines sparked a significant backlash. The absence of evidence supporting the change puzzled public health experts. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the guidelines would not be adopted in California; in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called them “indefensible.” And Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that he was undergoing surgery when the guidelines were approved last week — contradicting Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, who said Fauci and others on the task force had approved the final version.

“Everyone who needs a Covid-19 test can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test,” Redfield said Thursday.


Those comments echoed statements that Giroir made Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.

“There are going to be areas that public health officials say, ‘We want to test a lot of asymptomatic people because we have spread or we have an increase in positivity.’ We want to support that,” Giroir said.

“That is a whole different situation than someone waking up in a place where there’s a 1% prevalence and saying I want to get tested today tomorrow and the next day,” he said. “That’s really not indicated.”

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