Mayor Ravi Bhalla expressed sharp criticism over new Covid-19 guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention involving who should get tested for coronavirus after a possible exposure.
The new C.D.C. recommendations released on Monday say that an asymptomatic person does not necessarily need a coronavirus test, except if they have experienced at least fifteen minutes of possible exposure. The previous policy said any person should get a coronavirus test after a possible exposure to coronavirus.
“This [new policy] is unequivocally not the policy in Hoboken,” Ravi Bhalla said in a tweet. “Asymptomatic spread is very real and remains a threat. If you’ve been exposed to anyone with COVID-19, our guidance in Hoboken remains the same whether you have symptoms or not – please get tested. It may end up saving lives.”
The new C.D.C. guidelines have been the object of widespread criticism from scientists who say it goes against what is necessary to control the pandemic. The Infectious Disease Society of America said that the new testing guidelines diminish the importance of testing asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to COVID-19. “Testing asymptomatic individuals […] remains a critical evidence-based strategy for containing the pandemic and reducing transmission,” they said. The I.D.S.A. added that although there has been a national testing shortage, government officials should “expand testing capacity to allow for testing of all recommended individuals, including asymptomatic people who have been exposed.”
But other public health experts said the new guidelines are similar to what many health care providers are already doing. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in an email yesterday that the guidance was revised “to reflect current evidence and the best public health interventions,” but did not detail what the new evidence was. The email added that the decision came out of meetings of a White House coronavirus task force.
The rate of new Covid-19 infections in Hoboken has stayed low, with a new infection emerging every other day. Infections across the United States remain high, with 626,642 new cases in the past 14 days. An estimated 4 in 10 infected people don’t ever have symptoms and can silently spread the virus.
The C.D.C. policy stated previously, “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 infection be quickly identified and tested.”
The current C.D.C. policy states, “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 or state or local public health officials recommend you take one.”