In August, while Dr. Anthony Fauci was literally unconscious during surgery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suddenly reversed itself and published revised testing guidelines that suggested people who weren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19 didn’t need to be tested. That was true, according to these new guidelines, even for people who believed they had been exposed to someone with an active case of the disease.
The change in the guidelines was genuinely bizarre, because it came at a time when cases in the U.S. were surging and multiple states were showing an increasing percentage of positive tests. With multiple studies showing that asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers are the largest vectors of COVID-19, the new CDC guidelines seemed both ridiculous and dangerous. Public health officials were begging for increased testing, and the CDC was telling the people most likely to spread the disease to stop getting tested. New information shows that only part of that appears to be true: The guidelines were ridiculous, and they were dangerous. What’s not true is the idea that they were written by the CDC.
As The New York Times reports, scientists at the CDC deny having any role in the relaxed guidelines. In fact, rather than being made by the people in charge of testing, the new proposals were posted over their objections.
Not only were the new guidelines not written by the CDC, they weren’t even reviewed by that agency. Instead, the guidelines were written by the Department of Health and Human Services and simply dumped onto the CDC’s website without consulting with scientists or going through any of the stages required in the normal medical review process. However, they do appear to have gone past a number of desks in the White House, including that of Mike Pence.
In addition to providing dangerous advice that limits the effectiveness of testing, the new guidelines also included fundamental errors about the science behind COVID-19 and how testing works.
In an emailed response, CDC director Robert Redfield wrote that, “The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts.” Notice that while Redfield cites “task force experts,” he makes no mention of review by his own scientists at the CDC, a step that is supposedly required. As CNN reported at the time, Redfield was pressured to take the changes from the “top.”
What possible reason would there be for changing the guidelines in a way that purposely leaves out the people most likely to actually represent a threat of spreading the disease? There appears to be only one: For weeks, Donald Trump had been declaring that America’s problem wasn’t really a massive outbreak of COVID-19 leading to 200,000 deaths, but “too much testing.” Trump repeatedly insisted that if the number of tests was reduced, the number of cases would go down.
Trump got his wish. Not only did the CDC publish new guidelines that excused testing people thought to be exposed, the total number of tests has declined by over 150,000 tests a day since the end of July. A report published earlier this month showed that America actually needs over 6 million tests per day to achieve levels of testing adequate to characterize the pandemic and allow isolation of infections. All the way back in April, Trump promised the U.S. would reach five million tests a day. Instead, the number of tests never even reached 1 million a day and has declined for the last two months.
In Alabama, the rate of positive tests results remains at 15%. In Florida, it’s over 12%. In Idaho, the rate of positive tests is 16%. In Iowa it’s 14%. Kansas is at 15%. Mississippi is at 18%. Missouri at 11%. Nebraska is at 11%. South Carolina is at 16%. South Dakota is at 15%. Utah is at 15%. Wisconsin is at 15%. Many other states have rates of positive tests that are far too high to represent any chance of restraining spread, but these states are at a gross level of under testing.
And just like deaths in blue states, it’s happening because that’s what someone wanted.
Posted with permission from Daily Kos.