Fauci says task force discussed CDC testing guidelines when he was in surgery

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter NY health officials to review any vaccine approved by Trump MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday he was undergoing surgery during the task force meeting when updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 testing guidelines were discussed. 

"I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Fauci said he is “concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations” and is “worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“In fact it is,” he added. 

Fauci underwent surgery on Thursday morning to have a polyp removed from his vocal cord. 

The CDC quietly changed its guidance on Monday to say that asymptomatic people do not need to be tested for coronavirus, even if they have been in close contact with an infected person. 

Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration’s coronavirus testing coordinator, told reporters Wednesday the new guidelines were discussed at the last task force meeting and approved “Thursday of last week,” the same day Fauci said he was undergoing surgery. 

Giroir also said that the updated guidelines were a collaborative product and were approved by the entire White House task force, but said they ultimately belonged to the CDC and the agency's director, Robert Redfield. Giroir said there was high-level input from multiple people, including Fauci. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Hill reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services asking whether or not Fauci was involved in the final version of the updated testing guidelines but did not immediately hear back.

The new guidance states: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms: You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

The updated guidance is a stark change from the agency's previous guidance, which stated that “testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”