According to a new report in The New York Times, controversial recent updates to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surrounding Coronavirus testing were imposed under political pressure. The new CDC guidelines insist that individuals “do not necessarily need a test” if they have been in close contact with an infected individual but themselves do not show any symptoms. The newest guidelines, as The Times summarizes, “exclude people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 — even if they have been recently exposed to the virus.” According to two sources, the CDC “was instructed by higher-ups within the Trump administration to modify” the guidelines.
Obviously, in an ideal world, a federal response to the Coronavirus pandemic wouldn’t be influenced by politics. Yet, according to one federal health official speaking to the Times, “the directive came from the top down.” The other official added that “the guidelines were not written by the C.D.C. but were imposed.”
Admiral Brett M. Giroir, who’s led federal efforts to oversee and coordinate Coronavirus testing around the country, said that besides CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, “other members of President Trump’s coronavirus task force were involved,” as the Times summarizes, and there’s a possible explanation if some of the politically-minded members of that task force pushed for admonishing authorities to test fewer people. In short, Trump himself has ranted against testing for awhile, claiming that high levels of testing were unduly pushing up the numbers of confirmed cases in the country. He’s claimed that testing “creates” cases — which is ridiculous, because the virus would still spread, sicken people, and lead to deaths even if not a single test was performed.
Giroir claimed, discussing the latest testing guidelines:
‘There was no weight on the scales by the president or the vice president or Secretary Azar. This was a product produced by the scientific and medical people that was discussed extensively at the task force.’
But what about other potentially politically-minded members of the White House’s task force? Dr. Deborah Birx, for instance, has faced occasional criticism for seeming too ready to go along with the president’s nonsense. When the president publicly mentioned exploring the possibility of potentially injecting household cleaners to treat the Coronavirus, she was there, and she did not shut down the idea as some would have preferred. Apparently, Dr. Anthony Fauci — who’s widely recognized as an impartial, science-based voice on the task force — was undergoing surgery at the time that the group was deliberating over the guidelines.
Giroir has responded to criticism about the scaled-back CDC guidelines by claiming that federal officials are “trying to get appropriate testing, not less testing” — but the net effect of the guideline updates may be less testing, no matter what Giroir says.
Trump and his political allies have consistently tried to downplay the effects of the Coronavirus. After having spent much of the pandemic’s early days claiming that the virus would soon disappear — a claim that he had no evidence for — Trump has more recently taken to talking as if the threat of the virus is mainly in the past. However, the U.S. has still been facing a seven-day average of nearly or over 1,000 newly reported Coronavirus deaths a day for over a month.