Trump officials wrote CDC testing guidance against scientific advice: NYT – Business Insider – Business Insider

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a controversial guideline last month saying that people who were exposed to the novel coronavirus but didn’t show symptoms should not seek a test.
  • According to The New York Times, the advice was written by Trump administration officials and published despite scientists’ objections.
  • The memo had been written by Department of Health and Human Services officials and published on the CDC’s website, circumventing the CDC’s scientific review process, the report said.
  • The publication of the guidance had prompted concerns of political interference in the CDC, with President Donald Trump having sought to blame high coronavirus infection rates on testing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A controversial guideline from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that discouraged people in certain situations from taking coronavirus tests was written by Trump administration officials and published despite objections from scientists, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The guidance, which was published on the CDC’s website on August 24, said people who had been exposed to the novel coronavirus but did not show symptoms should not seek a test.

According to The Times, the advice had been written by officials at the Department for Health and Human Services and published despite the objections from doctors and scientists at the CDC. The Times cited several sources close to the matter in addition to documents.

“That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the task force,” a federal official with knowledge of the matter told The Times, referring to the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

“That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy,” the official added.

An unnamed federal health official had also told CNN around the time the guidance was published that the advice was “coming from the top down.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease official in the White House coronavirus task force, also said he was in surgery when the task force discussed approving the new guidance.

Before the August 24 guidance, the CDC had advocated widespread testing to identify clusters of infections, including for those who were not symptomatic but had come into contact with possible sources of infection. 

The reversal prompted accusations of political interference, with President Donald Trump having repeatedly and falsely sought to blame solely increased testing for high numbers of coronavirus cases in the US. 

At the time, the agency denied that the advisory was made because of meddling by administration officials. 

But Thursday’s report said the advisory had in fact been written by officials at the HHS and then published on the CDC’s website, circumventing the CDC’s scientific review process.

Typically, CDC advisories need to be signed off by 12 to 20 people, including doctors and scientists, before being published, The Times said.

Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at HHS, told a press conference around the same time the CDC guidance was published: “We want appropriate testing, not less testing … We want more asymptomatic testing in areas where it’s needed and hopefully less where it’s not needed.”

In a Friday statement to Reuters, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the testing advice had been issued after receiving input from experts on the White House coronavirus task force. 

“The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts,” Redfield said.

Neither the CDC nor HHS immediately responded to Business Insider’s requests for comment.

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