The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a sudden move that’s left some in the medical world baffled, reversed course on its long-standing — comparatively speaking, that is — recommendation for anyone and everyone who comes into contact with a coronavirus-positive individual to get tested, and instead, not.
That makes sense.
After all, Americans don’t run to the doctor’s office to get tested for influenza every time they cross paths with a person who’s got the flu. Right?
But add this to the list of flip-flops, random policies and outright ridiculous conflicting recommendations that have dotted the medical advisement landscape on COVID-19 since January. Don’t wear a mask, wear a mask, make a mask out of a T-shirt, heck, wear goggles and face shields, even. Social distance — nope, stay home instead. Close schools, open schools, close schools again. Stay out of baseball stadiums — unless you’re named Dr. Anthony Fauci. Shut down churches — too dangerous to congregate! — but Black Lives Matter shoulder-to-shoulder gathering are A-OK.
The list goes on.
And once upon a time, on COVID-19 testing guidelines, the CDC said this, CNN reported: “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infected be quickly identified and tested.”
That spawned a whole medical and political cry for widespread, rapidly implemented and heftily funded contact tracing systems to be put in place — with even Rep. Bobby Rush, Democrat, calling for $100 billion worth of funding to hire, train and equip local governments everywhere with the necessary tools and manpower to track the virus (to track and surveil citizens, is more like it).
Now the CDC’s changed its tune.
On the CDC website is now this advice: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider of state or local public health officials recommend you take one.”
Either the CDC is coming ‘round to solid sense — by putting a stop to the silly practice of recommending tests, tests, tests for everybody and anybody in the country who comes into contact with a COVID-19 patient, and in so doing, driving up the nonsense “case” count numbers that are largely meaningless.
Or — and this maybe what’s taking place here — the CDC still wants the strict testing policy but not the political heat, and so is booting the decision-making process, to test or not to test, to local medical bureaucrats and states. And as we’ve seen with the mask policy, where the CDC recommends but does not require, it’s the states, the localities and even the private businesses that then implement the federal guidance as a mandate.
And speaking of masks, the CDC now says this to private businesses, CNN reported: “Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent.”
Good advice. Sound advice.
After all, there was that guy in Pennsylvania who was arrested for shooting a store worker who demanded he don a mask as a condition of entering and shopping.
There are those in the medical community who are puzzled by the CDC’s recent course shifts, of course.
“This is potentially dangerous,” said one infectious disease specialist to The New York Times, of the new testing recommendation from the feds. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”
That’s fear-mongering, though.
For years, for decades, for hundreds of years, Americans have gone to the doctor when they’re sick, and only when they’re sick.
Then COVID-19 came along and citizens who felt perfectly fine were rushing to get medical tests at corner clinics, hospitals and health agencies. Why? At first, it was because the coronavirus was an unknown. But as the weeks went by, the numbers — both real and flawed, genuine and skewed, actual and dishonest — showed the panic was unnecessary. The nonstop testing was actually fueling citizen panic; actually hyping media frenzy.
It just makes sound medical sense — sound personal common sense — to only get tested when feeling ill.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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