In a subtle yet key split from CDC guidance, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that people who have been exposed to the coronavirus but are not showing symptoms should seek testing.
Last week, the CDC updated its COVID-19 testing guidance to say people who have had close contact with an infected person but are not showing symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” unless they’re vulnerable to the disease.
Prior CDC guidance said such people should get tested. Public health officials have blasted the CDC’s decision, describing it as politically motivated to benefit President Donald Trump. At a June campaign rally, Trump explicitly urged officials to “slow the testing down” to artificially decrease case counts.
“I would say they should get tested,” DeWine said when asked about people without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19.
The CDC estimates that 40% of all COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic. Experts say testing is the only way to isolate these unknowingly sick people and break the chains of transmission.
The change is significant, especially for schools and universities, where outbreaks are likely to occur in districts moving forward with in-person learning strategies. The CDC defines “close contact” as within six feet for about 15 minutes or longer.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the governor, clarified after DeWine spoke that asymptomatic people who have been exposed should call their primary care provider about a test or go to a nearby community testing site.
Guidance on the Ohio Department of Health website states says health care organizations can order a test for anyone who wants one, but they can use their own discretion.
“Under our guidelines, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been exposed, are at higher risk, or showing no symptoms, anyone can get a test,” it states.
The Ohio State University devised an ambitious, mandatory system that tests 300 randomly selected students per day, regardless if they’re feeling any of the wide range of COVID-19 symptoms. Most colleges are only testing symptomatic students.
Further muddling its own advice, the CDC guidance also notes that exposed, asymptomatic people should follow guidance from state or local health officials.
Officials in Illinois, California and New York have publicly distanced themselves from the new CDC guidance. They say if you have been exposed to the coronavirus, you should seek a test regardless of symptoms.
Admiral Brett Giroir, Trump’s appointed testing czar, said the impetus for the new guidance came from the White House. He said the decision was made to prevent people from testing too soon and obtaining a false negative result and an improper sense of security, according to The BMJ.