The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines this week to exclude people without symptoms of coronavirus, even if they’ve recently been in contact with infected individuals. Studies, meanwhile, find nearly half of infections are from asymptomatic transmissions.
Amid reports that the sudden change in guidelines came from the “top” of the Trump administration, CNN reported on Wednesday that top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci was incapacitated when the decision was made.
“He said, ‘I was under general anesthesia in the operating room,’” CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, reading comments from Fauci, who had surgery last week to remove a polyp on his vocal cord. “‘Last Thursday was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding these new testing recommendations… I’m concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations. I’m worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is.’”
Fauci, however, later told NBC News that he didn't believe that the administration was trying to go around him while he was out.
“This was not an end run at all,” the immunologist said to political reporter Kelly O'Donnell. “I just happened not to be there during the final discussions. No intrigue here.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly groused that increased testing has resulted in more cases in America, calling it a “double-edged sword” and suggesting that the country should do less testing.
On Wednesday, The New York Times and CNN reported that “pressure” for the change to the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines came from top officials of the Trump administration.
“It’s coming from the top down,” an official told CNN.
Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, blasted those reports on Wednesday, telling The Daily Beast, “This did not come from the politicians.
“I’m sure there are some middling individuals at the CDC who are dissatisfied with the weather, with the car they drive, with their work environment, but at the end of the day the fact of the matter is, this came from the CDC, this came from the scientist, this came from the task force,” he said. “The politicians had nothing to do with it. No Trump, no Pence, no Azar.”
“CNN is sad...that all the indications are moving in the right direction,” Caputo insisted. “At this point they’re flat out putting out disinformation because they need to destroy Donald Trump. And if more people get sick in the meantime, that doesn’t matter to CNN.”
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, HHS said the guidelines had been updated “to reflect current evidence and best public health practices, and to further emphasize using CDC-approved prevention strategies to protect yourself, your family, and the most vulnerable of all ages.”
“As always, the guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation, and input from fellow Task Force experts, including CDC Director Redfield, who advise coronavirus-related matters among departments and agencies,” the statement added.