A top United States administration official who is in charge of coronavirus testing on Wednesday defended the US Centers for Disease Control’s change in guidance on testing, Politico reported. The CDC had encountered criticism from medical experts after its new recommendations said that testing may not be needed for asymptomatic close contacts and those who attended large gatherings but lack symptoms.

The new guidelines also said that it is up to state and local public health officials and health providers to decide whether people without symptoms or underlying risk factors need a test, after being in close contact with an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Previously, the CDC had advised such individuals to get tested. CDC released the new guidelines on Monday.

Politico said quoting unidentified officials that Donald Trump administration officials involved with the White House Coronavirus Task Force ordered the CDC to stop promoting coronavirus testing for most people who have been exposed to the virus but do not show symptoms. However, the Trump administration’s testing coordinator, Admiral Brett Giroir, denied these allegations.

“The new guidelines are a CDC action,” Giroir said at a press meet on Wednesday. “As always, the guidelines received appropriate attention, consultation and input from Task Force experts, and I mean the medical and scientific experts, including CDC Director [Robert] Redfield.” Giroir also denied any political involvement in the decision, ABC News reported.

“There is no direction from President Trump, the vice president or the secretary, about what we need to do, when,” he said, referring to Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “These are evidence-based decisions that are driven by the scientists and physicians, both within the CDC, within my office in the lab task force, and certainly among the task force members.”

However, Redfield had told ABC News in July that anyone who thinks they may be infected, irrespective of symptoms, should get tested. On Wednesday, Redfield seemed to do an about-turn, agreeing with the new recommendations.

“Everyone who needs a Covid-19 test, can get a test,” the CDC director said. “Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”

‘New guidelines could send wrong message’: Dr Anthony Fauci

But Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious diseases expert, issued a statement cautioning that the change in guidelines could send the wrong message. Fauci said he was undergoing vocal cord surgery on August 20, when the Coronavirus Task Force met to discuss updating the CDC guidelines. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern,” Fauci added. “In fact, it is.”

US President Donald Trump has been on record asking for testing to be reduced. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more cases,” he told a campaign rally earlier this month. “So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please!” The US presidential elections are due on November 3.

The United States, as of Wednesday morning, had reported over 58 lakh cases of the coronavirus, including more than 1.79 lakh deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 20 lakh people have recovered from the disease.

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