CDC guidance to not test asymptomatic people is ‘unfortunate,’ Gottlieb says

Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the FDA

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA chief under President Donald Trump, said on Sunday that the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not test asymptomatic people for Covid-19 was  “unfortunate” because those people could be at high risk of contracting the infection. 

“We should be testing those people to make sure they haven’t become infected and aren’t asymptomatic carriers because we know that they can spread the infection,” Gottlieb said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “They’re less likely to spread the infection, but they can still spread the infection.”

Earlier this month, the CDC quietly revised its guidance on coronavirus testing and dropped its previous recommendation to test everyone who has come into close contact with an infected person, even those who don’t have symptoms.

The move drew immediate criticism from medical groups and allegations of political motivation. Two federal health officials reportedly said the CDC was pressured into changing the guidance by top officials at the White House and Department of Health and Human Services.

Medical experts and lawmakers say that early and widespread testing of people without symptoms can help mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Gottlieb said that one reason for the CDC’s decision could be that businesses were requiring people to test negative for the virus before they can return to work. He said he doesn’t think the new guidance will likely be followed by states. 

“If that’s the case and that was a concern, there were more targeted ways to address that and speak to that problem, as opposed to making this very broad, sweeping change in the recommendations, which I think could be misinterpreted by the general public and certainly by public health agencies within states,” Gottlieb said. “And so I don’t think this changed guidance is likely to be followed by many states.”  

“I think it’s prudent that we test people who might be at high risk of contracting the infection,” Gottlieb added.  

— CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed reporting 

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