Updated CDC guidance suggests COVID-19 test not necessarily needed if exposed to COVID-19, showing no symptoms

Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 17:54:15-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The CDC revised its guidance on who should get tested for COVID-19, but some Tampa Bay area doctors fear the major implications of the change.

The CDC website previously read, “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.”

However, the website now 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.”

USF Health professor Dr. Jay Wolfson says the new guidance makes no sense, is confusing and has the potential to unleash positive cases into the community without being tested.

“Forty percent of people with the disease are asymptomatic. They have no personal symptoms but they spread it to others,” said Dr. Wolfson. “The counter-intuitiveness of this is this new guideline suggests if you’re asymptomatic, don’t worry about it? Clinically, that makes no sense.”

USF Health’s Dr. Thomas Unnasch says your chances are about 50/50 that you won’t develop symptoms, yet, you can still be highly infectious and transmit the virus to other people.

“Unequivocally, if you have been exposed to somebody, you’ve been in a room for 15 or 20 minutes close to somebody, or at a party and somebody gets infected and they report that they’re positive, you should go get tested as well,” said Dr. Unnasch.

The CDC does note people can be infected and spread the virus, while still feeling well and having no symptoms. It also says health officials may decide to test asymptomatic people in certain situations.

“You have nothing to lose by getting tested, except maybe standing in line and having someone stick something up your nose or down your throat or getting a blood test,” said Dr. Wolfson. “Would you want somebody who was positive and knew it or thought they knew it not getting tested and continuing to behave as if they weren’t positive?”