CDC waives testing recommendation for people without symptoms: 5 COVID-19 updates

The CDC updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines Aug. 24, saying people without symptoms don't always need to be tested. 

The original guidelines recommended testing for all close contacts of known COVID-19 patients. The updated version says known contacts "do not necessarily need a test" if they don't have symptoms. Exceptions can be made for vulnerable individuals and if clinicians or public health officials recommend testing.

Health experts expressed confusion and concern about the guideline change, noting that many people spread the virus to others before symptoms appear, reports The New York Times. 

"This is potentially dangerous," Krutika Kuppalli, MD, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, Calif., told the Times. "You're not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease. I feel like this is going to make things worse."

Four more updates:

1. Some patients face large medical bills for the treatment of long-term health issues linked to COVID-19, which could place a significant burden on public safety-net programs like Medicaid, physicians and researchers told The Wall Street Journal. Some of these "COVID-19 long-haulers" who struggle with prolonged symptoms never received a formal diagnosis due to testing shortages, which further complicates insurance coverage. Hospitals and clinicians are not eligible for federal funds that reimburse them for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients if individuals never received a positive COVID-19 test. 

2. Hospitals must now report COVID-19 data to HHS in order to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, CMS said in an interim final rule issued Aug. 25. Hospitals that fail to correct any reporting deficiencies may be at risk of losing their Medicare and Medicaid contracts, the agency said. 

3. CMS will now require regular COVID-19 testing of nursing home staff and offer testing to residents, agency administrator Seema Verma announced Aug. 25. Previously, such testing has only been recommended, partially because of the slow turnaround time for results. More than 5,500 "point-of-care" test kits have now been sent to nursing homes across the U.S. to improve turnaround time, according to Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health at HHS, as reported by The Washington Post.  

4. Eighteen COVID-19 cases at a Maine jail have been tied to a wedding reception that has left at least 60 people infected with the virus, CBS News reports. A staff member at Alfred, Maine-based York County Jail attended the Aug. 7 wedding and later tested positive for the virus, according to Nirav Shah, MD, director of the Maine CDC. Seven inmates, nine staff members and two government employees in the same complex have tested positive since. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,779,707
Deaths: 178,535
Recovered: 2,053,699

Counts reflect data available as of 8:30 a.m. CDT Aug. 26.

More articles on public health:
6 latest stories on COVID-19 antibodies, immunity
CDC drops 14-day quarantine recommendation for overseas, interstate travelers
25 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Aug. 26

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