For months, health officials have advised us to get tested for Covid-19 even if we’re not experiencing any symptoms of the volatile virus. If you’ve come into contact with a confirmed case, you might be infected asymptomatically, the thinking has gone.
But earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its testing guidelines to discourage people sans symptoms from seeking tests. People without symptoms who haven’t knowingly crossed paths with an infected person “do not need a test.” And the new guidelines say that even those who’ve crossed paths (defined as at least 15 minutes without social distancing) with a confirmed case “do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”
The news was appalling (even by 2020 standards), given that studies have shown asymptomatic and presymptomatic people can still transmit the virus. Apparently, Dr. Anthony Fauci was “under anesthesia” when the guideline modifications were discussed, and it’s unclear who was actually behind the changes.
But no matter who made the call, our state health authority isn’t listening. The Washington State Department of Health said on Wednesday that its guidance "has not changed: if you have symptoms, you need to get tested. If you’re a close contact of a confirmed case, you need to get tested."
The state emphasized that those in contact with the virus still need to quarantine for two weeks. And unlike the CDC’s update, the state offered a useful piece of advice: If you have symptoms, get tested as soon as possible. But if you don’t have symptoms and just fear you may have been exposed, don’t rush to the testing drive-through. “Testing too soon after an exposure may give you a negative result, even if you’ve been infected,” the release notes. Waiting five or six days is recommended.