Archive for the ‘testing’ Category

CDC dramatically restores COVID-19 testing advice marred by political meddling

September 18th, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the US, the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the US, the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

In a dramatic move, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday restored its recommendation to test people who have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, but don’t have symptoms—erasing politically motivated changes made by members of the Trump administration without the support or input of CDC scientists.

The CDC had—until August 24—always recommended testing for all people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, regardless of symptoms. The CDC stated clearly that this is “important” and should be done quickly “because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission,” which is largely thought to drive the pandemic.

But the guidance was abruptly and quietly changed August 24 to say that exposed people who do not have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.”

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White House-CDC tensions explode as Trump contradicts its leadership

September 17th, 2020
Image of President Trump speaking from behind a lectern.

Enlarge / US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in which he frequently contradicted his own health experts. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There was good news and then bad news for public health expertise yesterday. In the wake of increasingly unhinged behavior from a President Trump-appointed communications director at the US Department of Health and Human Services, he and one of his key appointees have left their posts—one for two months, one permanently. But any hopes that science might resume being the main driver of US health policy were short-lived. Earlier in the day, CDC head Robert Redfield and other Health and Human Services officials testified before a Senate panel. By the evening, the president himself was calling his own CDC director mistaken about everything from mask use to the schedule of vaccine availability.

By the end of the day, Redfield was tweeting statements that balanced ambiguity against seeming to support Trump's view.

A backdrop of turmoil

A constant background of tension has existed between the Trump administration (which wants the country to return to normal operations despite the medical consequences) and public health officials (who actually want to protect the public's health). But several things have driven those tensions into the open recently, starting with last week's revelation that political appointees were attempting to interfere with reports from career scientists at the CDC. That issue was seemingly resolved in the CDC's favor, as a key administration figure in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Michael Caputo, took a two-month medical leave after making a video in which he spoke of armed uprisings and conspiratorial cabals of CDC scientists.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, HHS, masks, Policy, redfield, science, testing, Trump, vaccine | Comments (0)

The CDC has failed: Ex-health officials urge states to abandon agency

September 1st, 2020
A security guard walks on the grounds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Enlarge / A security guard walks on the grounds of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is promoting policies that will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, states and local leaders should disregard the agency and strike out on their own. That’s according to Harold Varmus, the Nobel-prize-winning scientist and former director of the National Institutes of Health, and Rajiv Shah, the former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development and current president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

The two laid out their argument against the CDC in a searing opinion piece in The New York Times Monday, titled: “It Has Come to This: Ignore the CDC.”

Varmus and Shah’s dramatic disavowal of the country’s leading public health agency was spurred by its abrupt changes last week to COVID-19 testing guidance, which now discourages testing of people who have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus but do not have symptoms.

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Posted in asymptomatic, CDC, COVID-19, Infectious disease, NIH, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)

Reverse it, now: Infectious disease experts slam CDC’s COVID-19 testing change

August 27th, 2020
Admiral Brett Giroir, US assistant secretary for health, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listen during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, July 31, 2020.

Enlarge / Admiral Brett Giroir, US assistant secretary for health, from left, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listen during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, DC, July 31, 2020. (credit: Getty | Erin Scott)

Intense backlash from medical and infectious disease experts continues over revisions to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 testing recommendations, which as of this week discourage testing for people who have been exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms.

In a joint statement late Wednesday, the Infectious Diseases Society of American (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) called for “the immediate reversal of the abrupt revision” by the CDC.

In a separate statement, Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association—the nation’s largest organization of doctors—called the revision to the testing guidance “a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.”

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Posted in ama, asymptomatic, CDC, COVID-19, hivma, idsa, Infectious disease, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing, testing recommendations, Transmission | Comments (0)

In alarming move, CDC says people exposed to COVID-19 do not need testing [Updated]

August 26th, 2020
Huge facade for CDC headquarters against a beautiful sky.

Enlarge / Signage outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Second update 8/26/2020 3:00pm: In a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Admiral Brett Giroir—Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services and lead for COVID-19 diagnostic testing efforts—emphatically defended the changes to the CDC’s testing recommendation, saying that it came from public health experts at the CDC and was evidence based. There was “no direction” from the president, vice president, or other top Trump Administration officials, he said.

As for the changes themselves, Adm. Giroir said the decision to not recommend testing for COVID-19 exposed individuals without symptoms was intended to avoid testing too early after an exposure. This could provide a negative result before an infection has had enough time develop and register as positive on a test, thus giving an exposed person a false-assurance of being uninfected.

It’s still unclear why the CDC did not instead provide a recommended time-frame for asymptomatic testing after an exposure, particularly given that some infected people may never develop symptoms. A positive test result is necessary to ensure COVID-19 patients receive proper care, isolation instructions, and appropriate follow-up. Identifying patients through testing is also critical for contact tracing. After a person tests positive, contact tracers can inform people who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 positive person before they tested positive and/or went into quarantine.

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Posted in asymptomatic, CDC, COVID-19, pre-symptomatic, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing, Transmission | Comments (0)

COVID spit test is faster, cheaper, avoids shortages—and now greenlit by FDA

August 18th, 2020
A doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares to take a saliva swab from a patients during coronavirus symptom tests in the coronavirus outpatient clinic at the Paracelsus Clinic in Zwickau, Germany, on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Enlarge / A doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares to take a saliva swab from a patients during coronavirus symptom tests in the coronavirus outpatient clinic at the Paracelsus Clinic in Zwickau, Germany, on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The US Food and Drug Administration this weekend authorized a saliva-based diagnostic test for COVID-19 that costs less than $5, is faster than current laboratory tests, and may dodge supply shortages plaguing the country—without losing much in accuracy, according to early data.

The test, called SalivaDirect, was developed by researchers at Yale University, who have no plans to commercialize the test and have made the test’s protocol completely open and available.

If the protocol becomes widely adopted, it could help improve the country’s COVID-19 testing, which is currently dismal. Some patients face weeks-long waits to get results. With such long delays, contact tracers have no chance of reaching out to those exposed before they have the chance to pass on the infection. The delays stem from the sheer volume of tests coming in, as well as shortages of critical supplies, such as nose swabs and chemical reagents necessary to run the tests. SalivaDirect tries to address both of those problems.

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US COVID-19: 70K new cases a day, 60K hospitalized, testing swamped

July 23rd, 2020
Vehicles make their way to a COVID-19 test site in Los Angeles, California on July 21, 2020. California on July 21 reported a total of 400,769 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, approaching the numbers of New York, the state with the most cases.

Enlarge / Vehicles make their way to a COVID-19 test site in Los Angeles, California on July 21, 2020. California on July 21 reported a total of 400,769 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, approaching the numbers of New York, the state with the most cases. (credit: Getty | Frederic Brown)

The US surpassed 4 million cases of COVID-19 Thursday as the pandemic shows no signs of easing. Already, nearly 144,000 people in the country have died from the disease.

Yesterday saw more than 70,000 new cases tallied, with a seven-day average of nearly 67,000 new cases per day, according to data collected by The COVID Tracking Project.

With the ongoing surges, hospitalizations are nearing a new record during the pandemic. There are currently 59,628 people hospitalized across the country. That’s slightly below the previous peak on April 15 of 59,940. Deaths are also on the upswing, with a seven-day average of 834 deaths a day. The last two days have seen death tolls over 1,000. Southern states and hotspots in western states, such as California, are seeing the most significant disease spread.

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Posted in COVID-19, Infectious disease, laboratory testing, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)

NY partygoers get subpoenas after stonewalling COVID-19 contact tracers

July 2nd, 2020
Women stand in a doorway.

Enlarge / This picture taken on April 5, 2019, shows nurses waiting for patients at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York, amid a measles outbreak. (credit: Getty | JOHANNES EISELE )

Test, isolate, trace, quarantine: these are the bedrock public health measures proven effective at stamping out an infectious disease before it flares to the point where the only option left is to foist draconian lockdowns on whole populations.

The World Health Organization and public health experts have uttered and re-uttered the strategy ad nauseam since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in January. And health officials in many places followed the advice, quickly testing those at risk, isolating those infected, tracing people with whom patients had contact, and quarantining anyone exposed. It’s a strategy that requires leadership and resources but also public cooperation and commitment from everyone to do their part to defeat a common viral enemy for the greater good. With all of that, the strategy works. The places that followed the advice and largely stood together—Hong Kong and South Korea, for instance—are among those that have been the most successful at containing the devastating new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

The United States, meanwhile, did not take the advice, and the virus has spread widely, triggering lockdowns and now re-lockdowns. So far, the US has recorded over 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 deaths—and counting. The country has more than 25 percent of the cases globally, while only having around 4 percent of the world’s population. Still, the lesson has not sunk in.

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Posted in contact tracing, COVID-19, isolate, new york, public health, quarantine, Rockland County, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)

US logs record 40K COVID-19 cases in a day as experts brace for rise in deaths

June 26th, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks after leading a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Joshua Roberts)

The US logged nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 nationwide Thursday—the highest daily total yet in the course of the pandemic—and many states continue to see an alarming rise in the spread of disease.

Cases have been increasing in 30 states, according to the New York Times’ COVID-19 tracking effort. On Friday, 11 states set their own records for the average number of new cases reported in the past seven days, according to the Washington Post.

Though the rising case counts can sometimes reflect a rise in overall testing, many states are also seeing high and increasing percentages of positive tests—that is, the fraction of test results that come back positive, which is considered a more useful metric for assessing if disease spread is actually increasing. If states increase testing while the spread of COVID-19 stays the same or declines, the fraction of tests coming back positive would gradually decline.

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Posted in Arizona, cases, COVID-19, fauci, Florida, Infectious disease, outbreak, pandemic, pence, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing, Texas, Transmission | Comments (0)

New Zealand has beaten COVID-19. Here’s how

June 8th, 2020
A happy woman speaks at a podium.

Enlarge / New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes part in a press conference about the COVID-19 coronavirus at Parliament in Wellington on June 8, 2020. New Zealand has no active COVID-19 cases after the country's final patient was given the all clear and released from isolation, health authorities said on June 8. (credit: Getty | MARTY MELVILLE )

New Zealand has officially beaten COVID-19.

The island country announced Monday, June 8, that its last remaining person with the infection had gone 48 hours without symptoms and is now considered recovered.

With no active cases, the government moved to “alert level 1,” the lowest of four alert levels that effectively lifts all remaining social-distancing measures. There are now no restrictions on movement, domestic travel, or gatherings. Fans of rugby and other sports are allowed to return, en masse, to stadiums. Schools, workplaces, restaurant, and shops are all open.

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Posted in contact tracing, coronavirus, COVID-19, Infectious disease, new zealand, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)