'Entirely bizarre': Santa Clara County's top health officer reacts to CDC reversal on COVID-19 testing

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ByChris Nguyen KGO logo
Thursday, August 27, 2020
CDC'S COVID-19 testing guidance is 'bizarre', Bay Area health official says
Santa Clara County health officials are sounding the alarm over the new COVID-19 testing guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Public health officials in Santa Clara County were quick to express their concerns Wednesday after learning about the new COVID-19 testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the abrupt changes could make matters worse across the country.

"When I first heard about this change in guidelines, I actually didn't believe it," said county health officer Dr. Sara Cody. "It seemed entirely bizarre in that it undercuts our very basic tenets of how we control an infectious disease."

The nation's health protection agency now says that as long as a person doesn't show COVID-19 symptoms, then testing may not be necessary. But health experts, such as Cody, say that it's important to identify infections in the small window preceding the onset of symptoms. County officials say they'll continue to urge anyone who may have been exposed to the virus to get tested as soon as possible.

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"Failing to test is not going to end this pandemic," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, who is leading up the county's COVID-19 testing efforts. "Failing to test will not make this virus go away."

The timing of the CDC's new guidance is leading some officials to question whether politics have leaked into public health guidance at the national level.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Coronavirus Task Force member, expressed concerns about the interpretation of these new guidelines Wednesday afternoon and said he was in surgery under general anesthesia at the time these changes were being discussed by the group.

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And President Trump has stated publicly that he's asked federal officials to 'slow the testing down.'

In an earlier press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom also pushed back against the new CDC recommendations.

"We're influenced by those that are experts in the field that feel very differently," said Newsom. "And so with respect to the CDC, no, that is not the policy guideline that we will embrace or adopt here in the state of California."

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According to the CDC's own estimates, roughly 40% of those infected with COVID-19 may never go onto develop symptoms, which is why experts believe proactive testing is essential.

"Identifying particularly asymptomatic individuals who are capable of spreading the virus to others has to be a key part of controlling this pandemic," said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease expert and professor at the school of medicine at Stanford University.

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