State to continue testing guidelines, disregarding CDC revised advice

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, acting Connecticut public health commissioner, speaks about new federal testing guidance during news conference Wednesday on the campus of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. State guidelines will continue to recommend testing regardless of whether someone exhibits symptoms after being exposed to the virus. -PAUL HUGHES/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NEW BRITAIN — Connecticut is continuing to recommend coronavirus testing for anyone who has been exposed to infected people despite a change in federal guidance.

Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday said the revised advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that now says otherwise is “dead wrong” because testing in such circumstance could stop community spread.

The CDC posted new federal guidance earlier this week that testing is not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people, but do not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19. Previously, local health departments had been advised to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.

The state guidelines recommend anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested, and also anyone who has come in close contact with infected people, especially if they are officially notified that they were exposed to a known COVID-19 case.

There have been 52,220 cases reported in Connecticut through Wednesday, including 180 new ones since Tuesday.

The state Department of Public Health will not be following the new CDC advice concerning symptom-less people who were in close contact situations

“We strongly encourage those with a known exposure to get tested and to quarantine for 14 days,” said Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, the acting public health commissioner and an epidemiologist.

There is no state requirement that asymptomatic individuals who have not been in contact with a known case of COVID be tested.

Gifford said she was unclear on the scientific basis of the change in CDC policy.

“We’re aware of the modification and what CDC said about asymptomatic tests,” she said. “We are in touch with colleagues to try to understand the science behind the modifications in those recommendations.”

Gifford observed the revised CDC guidelines also state that people should follow the recommendations of state and local public health officials.

“So, we don’t have any intention of changing our recommendations right now for asymptomatic testing,” she said.

Lamont said he agreed with Gifford, and expressed his disagreement with the new CDC guidance during a news conference on the campus of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

“I think that is dead wrong. If you have been exposed, you can be a carrier. You can be infectious well before you show symptoms,” he said. “We want you to get tested just like the commissioner said. We’re making it easier. We have 160 sites across the state. Go online and we can tell you exactly where it is at no cost.”

Currently, there are no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing for people with symptoms of the disease. Health insurers have voluntarily waived cost sharing for testing on a temporary basis. Currently, any person enrolled in a fully-insured or self-insured health plan will not pay any out of pocket costs.

The state’s HUSKY Health Program will cover costs for enrolled children and adults, and it is also paying for uninsured residents regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

Lamont said he was unsure if politics influenced the change in CDC advice because President Donald Trump wants to see case counts drop as he campaigns for re-election in November.

“I don’t play those games. I don’t care about that,” said Lamont, a Democrat.

He said most people who are tested now are being tested multiple times, and he is fine with counting the number of individuals tested, or the total number of tests, or both.

“I don’t think one makes us look better than the other. I don’t understand that rationale at all,” Lamont said.

Through Wednesday, there have been more than 1 million diagnostic tests done in Connecticut, including 15,312 more reported since Tuesday, though this figure includes multiple tests of some patients or specimens.

There were no deaths for a fourth consecutive day. There have been 4,463 fatalities to date.

Public health officials also reported a net decline of two patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 between new admissions and discharges to 57 statewide.

The Naugatuck Valley Health District reported Wednesday there have been 417 confirmed coronavirus cases in Naugatuck and 59 in Beacon Falls, that same as Tuesday’s figures. There have been 37 confirmed deaths associated with coronavirus and four probable deaths in Naugatuck, according to the health district, and none in Beacon Falls.

As of Aug. 14, the latest data released by the Chesprocott Health District reported, the health district reported there had been 84 cases in Prospect and no coronavirus-related deaths in town.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to their report.