The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slightly softened controversial new COVID-19 testing guidance Thursday with a statement suggesting tests for people exposed to the virus who do not show symptoms “may be considered.”
Earlier in the week, the CDC website quietly updated recommendations to exclude asymptomatic cases. Connecticut, in a break with the federal agency, had said it would not follow that sudden change.
“I think that’s dead wrong,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday. “If you’ve been exposed, you can be a carrier, you can be infectious well before you show symptoms. So we want you to get tested.”
The CDC cited no scientific evidence to support the initial change this week. The head of the federal testing program said the guidance shifted responsibility to public health officials because of the varying severity of COVID-19 across the country.
Hartford HealthCare, which has offered tests at eight permanent sites and more than 150 locations using mobile units throughout the state, continues to recommend testing of close contacts of people with confirmed COVID-19 infection. It’s not always obvious that you’ve become infected. A pre-symptomatic case is anyone who has not yet shown symptoms when tested. An asymptomatic case is anyone who never shows symptoms while infected.
The only way to identify either case — previously, the CDC said 40 percent of people with CVID-19 were asymptomatic — is through testing. Anyone infected with COVID-19 is highly contagious.
“It is still important to be tested after an exposure,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, an infectious disease specialist with Hartford HealthCare, “because there is still a concern of asymptomatic transmission within the community, which may be contributing to the pandemic. The test does not have to be done immediately after exposure but rather 2-14 days after exposure.”
Testing, social distancing, wearing a mask in public and good hand hygiene remain the principle defense against the spread of the coronavirus. Until Aug. 24, the CDC’s site recommended testing for all close contacts of people infected with the virus.
Once tested, said Dr. Wu, you should expect results in anywhere from one to five days, depending on the testing center. A 14-day quarantine is still recommended for anyone who might have been exposed to the coronavirus.
“One of the things that got us to this point, primarily, is having information going out to the public as to what they need to do,” said Keith Grant, system director of infection prevention with Hartford HealthCare. “The information we got from testing helped us with predictive modeling and to make critical decisions about reopening, when to reopen, knowing where the (virus) prevalence is and what population we need to focus on.”
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