CDC reverses guidance that said people with no symptoms may not need a test

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Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.

Erin Scott | POOL | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed controversial coronavirus testing guidance, which previously said that people who didn’t have symptoms but were exposed to an infected person “do not necessarily need a test.”

The new guidance says that people without symptoms who have been in close contact with an infected person “need a test.”

“Please consult with your healthcare provider or public health official. Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the new guidance says. “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.”

Numerous studies have shown that people can carry and spread the virus without showing symptoms — both in the presymptomatic stage and in cases where there never never develop symptoms. Public health specialists and officials at the World Health Organization have repeatedly emphasized the importance of testing people who don’t have symptoms in order to cut off chains off transmission. 

Many public health specialists criticized the CDC’s change in testing guidance in August for appearing to downplay the significance of testing people who don’t have symptoms but who might be spreading the virus. 

The CDC called the change in guidance a “clarification” and noted the “the need to test asymptomatic persons…”

Representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, which the CDC falls under, did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment. 

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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