The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue new guidance on coronavirus tests for screening purposes.
This is according to Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who emphasized the importance of screening at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing.
“Screening can be very powerful for maybe non-public health reasons, maybe getting us back to life, and screening in schools, K-12 screening, and university screening,” he said. “We’ll be coming out with some guidance around screening.”
In the US, testing has only been used in the US mostly for diagnosis for people who are sick or have been exposed to someone who contracted the virus. Screening could test people in a given community, searching for infectious individuals.
According to Redfield, the CDC would ensure that testing asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people will be given importance. The agency will release the guidance within the week, he noted.
The center is also coming up with new guidance around surveillance testing “where you can actually systematically begin to look at random individuals to get an idea is this outbreak starting to pop into the community,” he said.
Moreover, Redfield stressed that the agency will eventually release guidance for how states and local health officials can best implement resources to hold all three testing strategies.
Most public health specialists have urged the CDC and health officials throughout the federal government to promote and more aggressively hold surveillance testing and screening. Redfield stressed Wednesday that the technology was not able to conduct such widespread testing before.
“It really wasn’t possible to really have a lot of that guidance when there was no test,” he said, explaining that improvements in Covid-19 testing technology allow the nation to reach a point where such methods can be applied. “We’re going to try to give guidance to screening, particularly in K-12s and universities, but it’s also going to have a role in businesses, and also entertainment activity, like sports.”
Testing asymptomatic people
The new guidance on coronavirus tests will highlight the CDC’s stance on testing asymptomatic people, he said. Last month, the CDC changed its testing guidance to clarify that individuals who have no symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.”
Redfield said that many people “misinterpreted” the text and that the CDC was not stating that asymptomatic individuals should not undergo testing. He stressed that the agency will continue to strengthen its stance that more testing will help pinpoint coronavirus cases and eventually manage them.
Meanwhile, Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, expressed his support for Redfield’s sentiment on the importance of screening and surveillance testing. He cited Abbott Labs’ BinaxNOW test, which is an affordable antigen test and can present results in minutes.
“Our goal is to provide as many tools as possible in the right domain. So we can implement this type of guidance,” he said. “In March, it didn’t make sense to talk about random screening of children going to school, because you didn’t have that available.”