At a moment when experts have almost universally come forward to encourage more frequent and widespread testing, especially to reach vulnerable and marginalized sectors of the population, the C.D.C.’s update appears counterintuitive and “very strange,” said Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
Just weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health announced the first round of grant recipients for its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program, or RADx, to scale up coronavirus testing in the coming weeks and months. On the agency’s RADx website, officials underscore the importance of prioritizing tests that can “detect people who are asymptomatic.”
A more lax approach to testing, experts said, could delay crucial treatments, as well as obscure, or even hasten, the coronavirus’s spread in the community.
“I think it’s bizarre,” said Daniel Larremore, a mathematician and infectious diseases modeler at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Any move right now to reduce levels of testing by changing guidelines is a step in the wrong direction.”
Prior iterations of the C.D.C.’s testing guidelines struck a markedly different tone, explicitly stating that “testing is recommended for all close contacts” of people infected with the coronavirus, regardless of symptoms. The agency also specifically emphasized “the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission” as an important factor in the spread of the virus.