Position Statement on COVID-19 Testing Guidance

Following is an OPHA  position statement necessitated by the recent developments in testing guidance issued by the CDC. The full statement can be downloaded here.

The Ohio Public Health Association is disappointed by the recent changes to the CDC’s COVID-19 testing guidance made on 8/24/20.  By stating that, for close contacts of a confirmed case,  “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 new guidance provides false reassurance, implying that there is no risk unless the contact develops symptoms of COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere on its website, the CDC has contradictory guidance for public health professionals engaged in contact tracing.  They are still advised to test close contacts of confirmed cases, if resources are available.  The established science of SARS-CoV-2 supports this practice, given that asymptomatic infections are common, and asymptomatically infected individuals do transmit the virus.  

Public health communication needs to be clear and consistent.  As this pandemic evolves and our scientific understanding of SARS-CoV-2 deepens, revisions to the guidance will occur – but when that happens, they must be based on evidence.  No justification was provided by CDC for the recent revisions.  CDC Director Redfield’s statement attempting to justify the changes has only created more confusion.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease should be investigated and contact tracing initiated as soon as possible.  Close contacts should be quarantined during the incubation period so that they do not risk infecting others.  The purpose of testing contacts is not to reassure individuals whose test result is negative; it is to find individuals who are asymptomatically infected.  Each case that is missed allows transmission of the virus to continue.

Granted, as a nation we still have limited testing capacity. The response to this should be to build more capacity to do even broader testing of high-risk groups – not to mislead and confuse the public with advice that minimizes the importance of testing as a strategy to control COVID-19.

As the statewide organization representing public health professionals across disciplines, OPHA is concerned that the inconsistent CDC guidance will exacerbate confusion about the transmission of COVID-19, undermine trust in public health agencies, and diminish our ability to contain this pandemic.

For more information please contact:
Angela DeJulius, MD, MPH
OPHA Clinical Section Chairperson