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New COVID-19 testing advice could endanger lives

Date: Aug 27 2020

Contact: Media Relations 

Statement from APHA Executive Director George C. Benjamin, MD

The American Public Health Association is deeply concerned about new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that could reduce COVID-19 testing for at-risk individuals who are asymptomatic. We are unaware of any new data to merit this change, which is inconsistent with current public health practices.

In a dramatic shift from previous federal guidelines, the CDC disclosed that some people without COVID-19 symptoms may not need to be tested, even though they may have been in close contact with an infected person. This is inconsistent with the evidence that shows up to 40% of individuals who are infected spread the virus asymptomatically. It is also unclear what problem this change solves.

We are also concerned that this change was made without effective consultation with public health professionals who are on the ground managing this outbreak. It makes the messaging confusing and may reduce access for those needing testing. Lack of access to adequate testing has been a significant barrier to getting effective disease control of this pandemic.

The CDC remains our nation’s crown jewel of agencies for public health practice. This change and the process that resulted in its promotion puts that reputation at risk. We are also concerned that this change was the result of political pressure.

At a time when we don’t have clear, unified national leadership, we urge our federal public health officials to stand up for science and for the health of all of us.


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at