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CDC's revised COVID-19 testing guidelines are 'bizarre,' says Santa Clara County's top health official

Dr. Sara Cody urges test providers to stay vigilant

Santa Clara County Health Office Dr. Sara Cody speaks at a press conference in San Jose on July 2. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Santa Clara County's public health leaders on Wednesday put their foot down against changes in federal COVID-19 testing guidelines and urged the public to continue to be tested for the deadly coronavirus if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with a positive case.

Calling the changes "bizarre," county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance "undercuts our very basic tenets of how we control an infectious disease."

"Having individuals know their status is foundational to our ability to control an infectious disease and certainly our ability to control COVID," she said at a livestreamed news conference in San Jose.

Cody said she learned about the CDC's guidance changes on Tuesday. "When I first heard about this change in the guidelines, I actually didn't believe it. It seemed entirely bizarre," she said.

The CDC's new guidelines state that anyone with mild symptoms "may wish" to be tested and may be tested, which conflicts with local guidance and the county's order that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested right away, Cody said.

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The CDC's guidelines also state that anyone who has come in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 does not necessarily need a test.

"This is the part of the guidance that frankly felt the most bizarre. The truth is, if you've been in contact with someone who is infectious with COVID, you absolutely need to get a test," Cody said.

The county's health order requires health care facilities to test contacts. Testing is a way out of the pandemic, and the way back to opening the economy and schools, she said. Since the very beginning of the health crisis, adequate testing has been an Achilles' heel for our country and for our county in getting us out," she added.

"It's absolutely foundational. Here in our county we are going to continue to work with our health care partners to continue to offer testing."

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, head of the county's testing program, said the county has gone from 1,000 tests per day to 6,000 to 8,000 tests per day. Up to 35% to 40% of cases may be asymptomatic, he said.

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"We need to follow the science. … I respect the CDC — always have throughout my career. However, I believe that these changes in the testing guidance have not come from the CDC. I believe these changes have come from further up the chain in the federal government, from the White House, and they are totally misdirected. Failing to test is not going to end this pandemic. Failing to test will not make the virus go away.

"Lacking a strong testing program, I think nationally, has been one of the greatest failures of our federal government, however we will not change our guidance because of this," he said. "We will continue to have a strong basis in science. We will continue to encourage people to be tested so we can contain this pandemic."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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CDC's revised COVID-19 testing guidelines are 'bizarre,' says Santa Clara County's top health official

Dr. Sara Cody urges test providers to stay vigilant

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 26, 2020, 3:22 pm

Santa Clara County's public health leaders on Wednesday put their foot down against changes in federal COVID-19 testing guidelines and urged the public to continue to be tested for the deadly coronavirus if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with a positive case.

Calling the changes "bizarre," county Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance "undercuts our very basic tenets of how we control an infectious disease."

"Having individuals know their status is foundational to our ability to control an infectious disease and certainly our ability to control COVID," she said at a livestreamed news conference in San Jose.

Cody said she learned about the CDC's guidance changes on Tuesday. "When I first heard about this change in the guidelines, I actually didn't believe it. It seemed entirely bizarre," she said.

The CDC's new guidelines state that anyone with mild symptoms "may wish" to be tested and may be tested, which conflicts with local guidance and the county's order that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested right away, Cody said.

The CDC's guidelines also state that anyone who has come in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 does not necessarily need a test.

"This is the part of the guidance that frankly felt the most bizarre. The truth is, if you've been in contact with someone who is infectious with COVID, you absolutely need to get a test," Cody said.

The county's health order requires health care facilities to test contacts. Testing is a way out of the pandemic, and the way back to opening the economy and schools, she said. Since the very beginning of the health crisis, adequate testing has been an Achilles' heel for our country and for our county in getting us out," she added.

"It's absolutely foundational. Here in our county we are going to continue to work with our health care partners to continue to offer testing."

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, head of the county's testing program, said the county has gone from 1,000 tests per day to 6,000 to 8,000 tests per day. Up to 35% to 40% of cases may be asymptomatic, he said.

"We need to follow the science. … I respect the CDC — always have throughout my career. However, I believe that these changes in the testing guidance have not come from the CDC. I believe these changes have come from further up the chain in the federal government, from the White House, and they are totally misdirected. Failing to test is not going to end this pandemic. Failing to test will not make the virus go away.

"Lacking a strong testing program, I think nationally, has been one of the greatest failures of our federal government, however we will not change our guidance because of this," he said. "We will continue to have a strong basis in science. We will continue to encourage people to be tested so we can contain this pandemic."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2020 at 7:10 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2020 at 7:10 pm
18 people like this

What is reality? A top down decision by the President to neuter the CDC. Dr. Fauci had no part in this decision. He was having surgery at the time and obviously never consulted by Trump. People will die because of Trump's wanton decision to thwart sound public health policy. Dr. Cody is right when she says this is bizarre.


VS
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Aug 26, 2020 at 7:47 pm
VS, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2020 at 7:47 pm
8 people like this

What does this mean for people on Medicare who plan to be tested at the Art Center on Saturday? Will the test be covered if you have no symptoms? The county asks for individual health plans to cover cost (as part of the sign-up process), even though they originally said it would be free.


Resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 27, 2020 at 5:42 am
Resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 5:42 am
25 people like this

The only thing that's bizarre is Sara's tunnel vision obsession with "containing the virus" while the health impacts of lockdowns are far worse than a virus with a 90 percent recovery rate. [Portion removed.]


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 27, 2020 at 10:50 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 10:50 am
8 people like this

> 99.5 % recovery rate. Sara Cody needs to be removed from office.

Focusing on one risk to the exclusion of all others is terrible, terrible policy and it's worse that a [portion removed] unelected official like her has unlimited power to impose terrible policy.


Ellen W
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 27, 2020 at 11:04 am
Ellen W, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 11:04 am
8 people like this

To the person who says "the health impacts of lockdowns are far worse than a virus with a 90 percent recovery rate", let's say mortality of COVID-19 is 0.5% and herd immunity is 60% of population. That comes to 1 million people dead in the US and 20 million worldwide. Is that acceptable?

For comparison, 2.8 million people died in the US in 2017.


Name hidden
Barron Park

Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 11:07 am
Name hidden, Barron Park

Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 11:07 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Claude Ezran
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 1, 2020 at 1:18 pm
Claude Ezran, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Sep 1, 2020 at 1:18 pm
6 people like this

It is not "bizarre" it is "criminal", as more people will be infected and die because of this directive that is intended to decrease the number of people who are counted as infected for pure electoral reasons. And yes, it comes directly from the White House. It is really sad that we cannot trust the CDC and the FDA anymore, institutions that used to be rock solid worldwide models, until they were hollowed out by Trump.


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