My patients are shocked by COVID-19 results: I’m not

Symptoms are not a reliable marker of infection or infectivity — and they should not be a deciding factor in any decision to test.

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Columnists

September 16, 2020 - 10:00 AM

Teachers in Syracuse were tested for the coronavirus on Aug 31. A nasal and saliva test were given by nurses.

As a physician, I’m part of a COVID-19 task force that contacts coronavirus-positive patients and clarifies the next steps in their care. When I tell them their test result is positive, many react with puzzlement, saying they “feel fine.” So I was more than dismayed when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to succumb to political pressure to change its COVID-19 guidelines and discourage testing of people who are asymptomatic.

When the CDC recently issued new guidelines that no longer recommend testing people who feel fine but have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, the medical community and politicians across the country sounded an alarm. More than one expert said the guidelines had been revised for political, rather than scientific, reasons.

And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo squarely blamed politics because the Trump administration doesn’t “want publicity that there is a COVID problem.” He pointed out that “if you don’t test people for COVID, there are fewer cases” and called it a strategy of “denial.”

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