How Indiana leaders interpret new CDC testing guidance

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — New CDC guidance is causing confusion about who should be tested for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people without symptoms did not necessarily need to be tested, even if they were exposed to someone who had the virus.

Now it says close contacts may consider getting tested.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said Wednesday that if you have been exposed to someone with the virus— even if you aren’t showing symptoms— you should be tested.

“Of course, as time goes on, if it becomes more of an issue for us to be able to test the number of positive individuals, or the individuals that are symptomatic, if we have more issues getting the supplies that we need, or the reagents that we need to run the tests, we may have to become more strict on that,” said Box.

In a response to our question about the number of tests available in the state right now, Indiana State Health Department Spokesperson Megan Wade-Taxter said:

It is less the number of tests but our ability to obtain tests and have a good turnaround time for results. At this time, we are regularly receiving the testing kits we have ordered, and our turnaround time averages between two and three days. If we could not get the test kits or the turnaround time increased significantly, then we would consider recommending prioritizing testing.

To date, there are more than 200 test sites available across the state, and none require COVID-19 symptoms right now. However, new guidance from the CDC shows asymptomatic people should only be tested if they are a vulnerable individual, their health care provider says so or local health officials recommend it.

“In my mind, as a physician, I read that as people should still be talking to their provider if they have been exposed, even if they are asymptomatic,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, vice president of data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute.

He said not testing asymptomatic people would definitely have an impact.

“We know that up to 50% of cases can be asymptomatic, somewhere between 40 and 50% is what the data shows,” explained Dr. Grannis.

The CDC said everyone who needs a test can get a test, but everyone who wants one doesn’t necessarily need it.

Dr. Grannis said if we don’t test asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, we will very clearly be missing information necessary to make decisions.

“Testing is an important core to our framework in responding to coronavirus, and I think it is essential that we do continue to be vigilant regarding testing, including asymptomatic individuals,” said Dr. Grannis.

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