U.S. CDC testing guidance was published against scientists' objections: NYT

(Reuters) - Guidance about novel coronavirus testing posted last month on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was not written by the agency’s scientists and was posted over their objections, the New York Times reported citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

FILE PHOTO: Robert R. Redfield, Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2020. Anna Moneymaker/Pool via REUTERS

Under the guidance, it was not necessary to test people with no symptoms of COVID-19 - the potentially fatal disease caused by the virus - even if they had been exposed to the virus.

The agency’s previous position recommended testing all people who have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. The reversal shocked doctors and politicians and prompted accusations of political interference.

Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - the CDC’s parent - at the time said the goal was “appropriate testing”, not more testing for its own sake, and that there had been no political pressure.

Internal documents on the matter contained "elementary errors" - such as referring to "testing for COVID-19", as opposed to testing for the virus that causes it - and recommendations inconsistent with the CDC's stance, the NYT reported Thursday citing a senior CDC scientist.

Officials of the administration of President Donald Trump told the NYT the documents were produced by the CDC and had been revised with input from agency director Robert Redfield.

However, the NYT also reported the HHS rewrote and then “dropped” the guidance into the CDC’s website, flouting the agency’s review process.

“The guidelines, coordinated in conjunction with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, received appropriate attention, consultation and input from task force experts,” Redfield said in a statement to Reuters.

A HHS spokeswoman told Reuters that guidance always receive input from medical and scientific experts on the task force.

A new version of the guidance, expected to be posted Friday, has not been cleared by the CDC and is being revised by HHS officials, the NYT reported, citing a federal official.

Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Christopher Cushing