Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading authority on infectious diseases, said he was undergoing surgery when the White House Task Force discussed the apparently politically driven decision to weaken the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for who should be tested for the coronavirus—and is “concerned” and “worried” about what they say.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN Wednesday he was under general anesthesia in the operating room and “was not part of any discussion or deliberation” regarding the new testing recommendations.
Fauci said he is “concerned” about how the recommendations will be interpreted and is “worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern,” adding, “in fact it is.”
The new recommendations, quietly updated to the CDC website on Monday, say people who come within six feet of a person with Covid-19 for at least 15 minutes but aren’t showing symptoms don’t need a test unless they’re a high-risk individual or their local public health officials recommend one — a stark contrast to the previous guidance encouraging tests for “all close contacts” with someone known to have Covid-19 because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.
Other medical experts, who have repeatedly warned that asymptomatic people can be unknowing carriers of the virus, quickly expressed concern that the CDC’s guidance change could complicate the tracking and curbing of Covid-19’s spread.
Two unnamed federal health officials told the New York Times Wednesday that the White House had pressured the CDC to shift its guidelines, with one saying the guidelines weren’t written by the CDC, after CNN published its own report, citing one official who said the directive came “from the top down.”
Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir denied the reports during a Wednesday afternoon press briefing, telling reporters the guidelines came from the CDC, but had input from members of President Trump’s Task Force, as well as Giroir and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
President Trump has repeatedly said that the country should scale back testing, complaining also that the number of infections in the U.S. is so high because of the number of tests conducted. However, Giroir denied any political influence in the decision, saying: “This was a product produced by the scientific and medical people that was discussed extensively at the task force.” (Which reportedly excluded Fauci.)