Testing czar defends guideline changes; DOJ may probe nursing home deaths in 4 states — 6 COVID-19 updates

The White House's COVID-19 testing czar is defending a controversial change to the CDC's testing guidance, which says people without symptoms can forgo testing. 

Six updates:

1. Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, testing czar and assistant secretary for health at HHS, denied claims that top officials pressured CDC to make the changes to the testing guidelines, reports The New York Times. Dr. Giroir said that members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force unanimously approved the change after a long debate. However, Anthony Fauci, MD, told CNN he was undergoing surgery and not at the task force's Aug. 20 meeting to discuss the guidelines. 

"I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is," Dr. Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom both said they will not follow the new testing guidelines. To view more reactions to the guideline changes, click here.

2. Federal efforts to expand testing at nursing homes have stalled, with some facilities not using the rapid-result COVID-19 tests they received, reports The Wall Street Journal. In July, HHS said it would ship antigen testing machines and a limited supply of test kits to 14,000 U.S. nursing homes. Among 37 nursing-home executives who had received testing equipment, only nine said they were using it for COVID-19 testing, according to a small, informal survey conducted by LeadingAge, a group representing nonprofit providers. Some facility leaders said it's difficult to obtain refill test kits, and some state and federal agencies are giving contradictory guidance about how to use the equipment.

3. The Justice Department says it may investigate four states' roles in nursing home outbreaks, The New York Times reports. The department has asked New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania for information about their governors' actions "to determine if the state orders requiring admission of COVID-19 patients to nursing homes is responsible for the deaths of nursing home residents." The department may then open a formal investigation, depending on the information received.

4. Children play a role in the spread of coronavirus, but schools aren't a 'main contributor' to the pandemic, a World Health Organization official said Aug. 27, according to CNBC. During a news briefing, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director in Europe, said children play a role in transmission, but social gatherings are more likely to contribute to virus spread. "This is one of the unknowns but definitely top priorities for the policymakers at the World Health Organization," Dr. Kluge said.

5. California signed a deal with diagnostics company PerkinElmer Aug. 26 to more than double the state's testing capacity. The contract will allow California to process up to an additional 150,000 COVID-19 tests daily, with results back in 24 to 48 hours. Gov. Newsom said the goal is to process tens of thousands of additional tests by Nov. 1 and reach full capacity by March 1, 2021.

6. The FDA issued emergency use authorization for a new COVID-19 antigen test from Abbott Laboratories Aug. 26. Abbott said the test will cost $5 and produce results within 15 minutes, which could help expand testing access in the U.S. 

7. The number of Americans filing for unemployment this week surpassed 1 million again, though the number is slightly lower than last week, according to seasonally adjusted data released Aug. 27 by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the week ending Aug. 22, 1.01 million  Americans filed for unemployment, a decrease of 98,000 from the previous week's revised level. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,823,923
Deaths: 179,756
Recovered: 2,084,465

Counts reflect data available as of 8:45 a.m. CDT Aug. 27.

More articles on public health:
Woman may be first person cured of HIV without treatment
CDC waives testing recommendation for people without symptoms: 5 COVID-19 updates
US coronavirus death rates by state: Aug. 27


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