American Medical Association criticizes new Trump testing guidance
The American Medical Association, the country’s largest doctors group, sharply criticized the Trump administration’s new guidance that asymptomatic people do not need to be tested, warning that it will lead to “more spikes in coronavirus.”
“Months into this pandemic, we know COVID-19 is spread by asymptomatic people,” Susan Bailey, president of the AMA, said in a statement. “Suggesting that people without symptoms, who have known exposure to COVID-positive individuals, do not need testing is a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.”
The AMA is one of the most prominent of a wide range of medical groups and public health experts who are alarmed by the Trump administration’s change.
In new guidance this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that people without symptoms do not need to be tested, even if they have been in close contact with an infected person, a reversal from the previous guidance that stressed testing of contacts as a key way to identify asymptomatic people spreading the disease.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America, which represents infectious disease experts, called for the “immediate reversal” of the guidelines.
“Evidence has clearly indicated that asymptomatic persons play a significant role in transmissions,” the group said. “Identifying individuals infected with COVID-19 — even if they are asymptomatic — is critical to support appropriate isolation and identification of contacts, to limit spread, and to provide the data-driven, comprehensive view of community spread needed to inform effective public health responses.”
The group said it is important to test asymptomatic people who have been in contact with infected people, as well as those who work in nursing homes or other high-risk jobs, and that testing asymptomatic children is important for reopening schools.
President Trump has repeatedly downplayed the need for testing and argued that it makes the country look bad by identifying more cases. Democrats said they feared the administration ordered this change to reduce testing.
Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), defended the change on Wednesday, saying that while the White House task force approved the change, medical experts in the administration supported the idea. He denied that the guidelines were the result of political pressure.
“There was no weight on the scale by the president or the vice president or [HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar,” Giroir said, adding the administration wants more “appropriate” testing, not less testing.
But Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, later told CNN that he was undergoing surgery while the task force discussed the change last week, and that he is “worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern.”