THD HelpDesk, Atlanta: A general guidance was published last month, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month in the absence of recommendation of their scientists. The agency’s website posted it despite its severe criticism. The guidance made it inconsequential to test asymptomatic people for COVID-19 despite the risk of having being exposed to the virus.
However, the agency’s director, Robert Redfield, informed The New York Times that they had revised the document. The officials told The New York times that it was Department of Health and Human Services who did the updating and posted it to the C.D.C.’s public website hence condemning the whole strict scientific review process.
A federal official said, “That was a doc that came from the top down, from the H.H.S. and the task force… that policy does not reflect what many people at the C.D.C. feel should be the policy,”
Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director at the Centres for Disease Control, said, “The idea that someone at H.H.S. would write guidelines and have it posted under the C.D.C. banner is absolutely chilling.”
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director during the Obama administration, quoted, “H.H.S. and the White House writing scientifically inaccurate statements such as ‘don’t test all contacts’ on C.D.C.’s website is like someone vandalizing a national monument on graffiti. The document even contains elementary errors as mentioned by a senior scientist of C.D.C. It refers to “testing for COVID-19” in lieu of the virus causing the disease.
Am. Brett Giroir, the testing coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services in C.D.C.’s parent organization, confirmed in an interview that in one month the draft had been edited more than 20 times.
There were additional comments from Dr. Redfield, top members of the White House task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s advisor in Coronavirus in all subsequent editions. Giroir further added that they forwarded the draft to Vice President Mike Pence as the head of the task force. He couldn’t give any comment on why the recommendation sidestepped the significant scientific review process. He said “I think you have to ask Dr. Redfield about that. That certainly was not any direction from me whatsoever.”
The C.D.C. e-mailed a statement from Dr. Redfield on Thursday night that stated, “The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from the task force experts.”
An updated version of the testing guidance was expected by Friday but is currently under the review process by the internal scientific team. It is being revised by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to an anonymous federal officer. The department had allegedly abstained the officer from speaking on the matter earlier.
The testing guidelines posted on August 24 said: “People without symptoms do not necessarily need a test” even if they had been in contact with an infected person for more than a period of 15 minutes.
Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, which usually works closely with the C.D.C., commented, “Suggesting that asymptomatic people don’t need testing is just a prescription for community spread and further disease and death.”
Dr. Redfield later changed his stance by saying that testing may still be up for consideration for all close contacts. He also said in a hearing that vaccines wouldn’t be available readily till the first half of the next year and Trump hugely criticized this comment.
After the circulation of eight revised versions, an e-mail to the New York Times said claimed that no more substantial edits were possible. The e-mail said, “We do not have the ability to make substantial edits.” Following the publishing, the agency diverted the media queries to the Department of Health and Human Services. A “talking point” reminded the scientists to say that “C.D.C. was involved in developing the new guidance with suggested comments and edits shared back with H.H.S. and the White House Taskforce.”
To further worsen the matter, the published notice asked people who were part of a public or private gathering of more than ten people (without widespread mask-wearing or physical distancing) to test themselves only if they feel “vulnerable.”
The agency’s scientists prefer the term “at-risk groups” over “vulnerable”. Further, they advised people to avoid such congregations at any cost.
The chain of events makes the independence and authority of the agency questionable. The COVID-19 mortality rate in the United States has reached around 200,000. While global experts address the concern of the increasing the numbers of tests significantly, this decision by C.D.C. has shook people’s faith in the agency.
Source: NY Times