What you need to know about COVID-19: CDC director walks back recent changes to testing guidelines

Related video above: Doctors prepare for flu season amid coronavirus pandemicFollowing criticism about a recommendation advising some not to get tested after exposure to the coronavirus, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now walking back this week’s change in guidance.According to The New York Times, Dr. Robert Redfield issued a statement that says “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.” “Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives,” Redfield wrote. “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”Earlier this week, the CDC changed its COVID-19 testing guidance to say some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone known to have the virus. The change drew skepticism from many health officials. “These are exactly the people who should be tested,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University who was previously Baltimore’s health commissioner. The CDC website previously stated: “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”The CDC changed the site on Monday with the following: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you 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.”Those who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and haven’t been in close contact with someone with a known infection do not need a test, the updated guidelines say. The CDC did not explain the change, and doctors were puzzled by it.”I’m concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with COVID-19 now doesn’t need to get tested,” Wen said.”This is key to contact tracing, especially given that up to 50% of all transmission is due to people who do not have symptoms. One wonders why these guidelines were changed — is it to justify continued deficit of testing?”Flu vaccinations will prevent hospitals from handling ‘twindemic’U.S. health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu in record numbers this fall, so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with a dueling “twindemic.””It’s also becoming clear that wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping your distance are protections that are “not specific for COVID. They’re going to work for any respiratory virus,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The evidence: Ordinarily, South Africa sees widespread influenza during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months of May through August. This year, testing tracked by the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases is finding almost none — something unprecedented.School closures, limited public gatherings and calls to wear masks and wash hands have “knocked down the flu,” said Dr. Cheryl Cohen, head of the institute’s respiratory program.That not only meant lives saved from flu’s annual toll, but it “freed up our hospitals’ capacity to treat COVID-19 patients,” Cohen added.The latest numbersMore than 5.8 million Americans have been infected and at least 179,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.Study: Immune response may play role in why men are more likely to die than womenResearchers have known for some time that men are more likely to die from COVID-19 than women — and a new study sheds light on some possible key differences in immune responses to the disease that may help to explain why.Women appeared to have a more robust immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with men in the study, which published in the journal Nature.Researchers from Yale University analyzed blood samples, nasal swabs, saliva, urine and stool specimens from 98 adult COVID-19 patients admitted to the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut between March 18 and May 9.Researchers observed “a more robust T cell response among female patients compared to male patients,” they wrote in the study. “Importantly, the T cell response was significantly and negatively correlated with patients’ age in male, but not female, patients.”T cells are an important part of the immune system and protect the body from infection.”The study is observational (limiting our ability to make any inference regarding cause and effect), the number of patients in some of the groups is low (making it difficult to draw any firm conclusions) and the underlying hypothesis is very broad (are there sex differences in immune parameters of COVID-19 patients?)” Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the UK’s University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement Wednesday.Rapid $5 coronavirus test doesn’t need specialty equipmentThe Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that doesn’t need any special computer equipment to get results.The 15-minute test from Abbott Laboratories will sell for $5, giving it a competitive edge over similar tests that need to be popped into a small machine. The size of a credit card, the self-contained test is based on the same technology used to test for the flu, strep throat and other infections.It’s the latest cheaper, simpler test to hit the U.S. market, providing new options to expand testing as schools and businesses struggle to reopen and flu season approaches. The FDA also recently greenlighted a saliva test from Yale University that bypasses some of the supplies that have led to testing bottlenecks. Stop the spread of COVID-19To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related video above: Doctors prepare for flu season amid coronavirus pandemic

Following criticism about a recommendation advising some not to get tested after exposure to the coronavirus, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now walking back this week’s change in guidance.

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According to The New York Times, Dr. Robert Redfield issued a statement that says “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”

“Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives,” Redfield wrote. “Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”

Earlier this week, the CDC changed its COVID-19 testing guidance to say some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone known to have the virus.

The change drew skepticism from many health officials.

“These are exactly the people who should be tested,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University who was previously Baltimore’s health commissioner.

The CDC website previously stated: “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”

The CDC changed the site on Monday with the following: “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms, you 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.”

Those who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and haven’t been in close contact with someone with a known infection do not need a test, the updated guidelines say.

The CDC did not explain the change, and doctors were puzzled by it.

“I’m concerned that these recommendations suggest someone who has had substantial exposure to a person with COVID-19 now doesn’t need to get tested,” Wen said.

“This is key to contact tracing, especially given that up to 50% of all transmission is due to people who do not have symptoms. One wonders why these guidelines were changed — is it to justify continued deficit of testing?”

Flu vaccinations will prevent hospitals from handling ‘twindemic’

U.S. health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu in record numbers this fall, so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with a dueling “twindemic.”

“It’s also becoming clear that wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping your distance are protections that are “not specific for COVID. They’re going to work for any respiratory virus,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The evidence: Ordinarily, South Africa sees widespread influenza during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months of May through August. This year, testing tracked by the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases is finding almost none — something unprecedented.

School closures, limited public gatherings and calls to wear masks and wash hands have “knocked down the flu,” said Dr. Cheryl Cohen, head of the institute’s respiratory program.

That not only meant lives saved from flu’s annual toll, but it “freed up our hospitals’ capacity to treat COVID-19 patients,” Cohen added.

The latest numbers

More than 5.8 million Americans have been infected and at least 179,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Study: Immune response may play role in why men are more likely to die than women

Researchers have known for some time that men are more likely to die from COVID-19 than women — and a new study sheds light on some possible key differences in immune responses to the disease that may help to explain why.

Women appeared to have a more robust immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19 compared with men in the study, which published in the journal Nature.

Researchers from Yale University analyzed blood samples, nasal swabs, saliva, urine and stool specimens from 98 adult COVID-19 patients admitted to the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut between March 18 and May 9.

Researchers observed “a more robust T cell response among female patients compared to male patients,” they wrote in the study. “Importantly, the T cell response was significantly and negatively correlated with patients’ age in male, but not female, patients.”

T cells are an important part of the immune system and protect the body from infection.

“The study is observational (limiting our ability to make any inference regarding cause and effect), the number of patients in some of the groups is low (making it difficult to draw any firm conclusions) and the underlying hypothesis is very broad (are there sex differences in immune parameters of COVID-19 patients?)” Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the UK’s University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement Wednesday.

Rapid $5 coronavirus test doesn’t need specialty equipment

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that doesn’t need any special computer equipment to get results.

The 15-minute test from Abbott Laboratories will sell for $5, giving it a competitive edge over similar tests that need to be popped into a small machine. The size of a credit card, the self-contained test is based on the same technology used to test for the flu, strep throat and other infections.

It’s the latest cheaper, simpler test to hit the U.S. market, providing new options to expand testing as schools and businesses struggle to reopen and flu season approaches. The FDA also recently greenlighted a saliva test from Yale University that bypasses some of the supplies that have led to testing bottlenecks.

Stop the spread of COVID-19

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.

Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.

The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.

Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.