New CDC testing guidelines stun local health experts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Dr. Laura Forman, Kent Hospital’s Chief of Emergency Medicine, has been on the front lines of the pandemic since it started.

“I’ve seen hundreds of cases,” she said. “And I’m still surprised at the people who test positive for this virus. So it’s incredibly important that we keep testing, regardless of symptoms.”

That’s why Dr. Forman is puzzled that the CDC has just updated its guidelines to say people without symptoms no longer need to be tested.

“The CDC hasn’t released any new scientific data to explain why they’re changing the guidelines,” she said. “The disease hasn’t evolved in any significant way that would necessitate this change. This is not something that we were expecting them to do. I wasn’t in the room. I can’t explain why they would make this change.”

Also not in the room was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was under anesthesia for surgery at the time the decision was made.

He and Dr. Forman have some concerns about how the updated guidelines will be interpreted.

“It says that if your physician or public health official recommends that you get tested, then you should get tested,” she said. “But I do worry that the guidance will send the message to people that they don’t need to worry about being tested.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health says while it does pay close attention to CDC guidelines, this update does not change Rhode Island’s approach to testing.

“Rhode Island’s been very advanced in how we’ve handled this pandemic,” Dr. Forman said. “So I’m less worried about what this means for us, but I’m more worried about what this means nationally. I’m hopeful that other states will do as Rhode Island has done, and persist in testing large numbers of asymptomatic people, because that’s the only way we’re going to slow this down.”

But she acknowledges even Rhode Island’s robust testing system needs work.

“There certainly have been delays in getting people tested in this country,” Dr. Forman said. “We need more testing. But in the absence of that we need more guidelines on how to prioritize it. But there’s been no evidence released that says we shouldn’t be testing asymptomatic people. Half the people who transmit this virus have no symptoms at the time of transmission.”

That’s why she says the effort must be to continue expanding testing.

“More testing is good, less testing is dangerous,” Dr. Forman said. “The more information we have, the better choices we can make and the safer we’ll all be.”

 

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