Officials Say CDC Didn’t Write Testing Guidance Published On Its Website

Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber / Public Domain


CDC officials say a controversial guideline about COVID testing was not written by agency scientists.

A guideline saying that people without COVID-19 symptoms don’t need to be tested for the virus, even if they have been exposed, did not go through the CDC’s scientific review process, officials told The New York Times.

  • The controversial guideline instead came from officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (the CDC’s parent organization) and was posted to the CDC website last month despite serious objections from CDC scientists.

The current guidelines on testing, posted on Aug. 24, said people without symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” even if they have been in close contact with an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Public health experts roundly criticized the C.D.C. for that stance, saying it would undermine efforts to contain the virus.


The document contains “elementary errors” — such as referring to “testing for Covid-19,” as opposed to testing for the virus that causes it — and recommendations inconsistent with the C.D.C.’s stance that mark it to anyone in the know as not having been written by agency scientists, according to a senior C.D.C. scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a fear of repercussions.

  • Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing coordinator and an assistant secretary at HHS, said the initial draft came from the CDC but he “coordinated editing and input from the scientific and medical members of the task force.”
  • Giroir told The Times he didn’t know why the usual CDC scientific review was skilled and suggested asking CDC Director Robert Redfield about it, claiming he had nothing to do with the decision.
  • Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director under Obama, said, “H.H.S. and the White House writing scientifically inaccurate statements such as ‘don’t test all contacts’ on C.D.C.’s website is like someone vandalizing a national monument with graffiti.”

“Suggesting that asymptomatic people don’t need testing is just a prescription for community spread and further disease and death," said Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, which usually works closely with the C.D.C.

  • Redfield told Congress Wednesday that the agency is revising the recommendation and would repost it soon.

The revision was written by a C.D.C. scientist but was being edited on Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House coronavirus task force, according to a federal official familiar with the matter.

A document arguing the importance of reopening schools also was dropped into the CDC website by HHS in July, despite being “sharply out of step with the C.D.C.’s usual neutral and scientific tone,” CDC officials told The Times.

Read the full report.


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