There's been a lot of outrage and anger this week over those new COVID-19 testing guidelines that quietly went up Monday on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without any public announcement of the change, the CDC now says that, for people who have been in close contact with an infected person but aren't experiencing any symptoms themselves, "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." Before Monday, people who had been in close contact (within six feet, for more than 15 minutes) had been told they should get tested. But don't worry, we've been told, the changes were all approved by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Except, nah, that's not so true. CNN reported in the wee hours of Thursday morning that Dr. Anthony Fauci had actually missed the task force meeting last Thursday where the change was discussed, because he'd been in surgery that day.

"I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations" at that meeting, Fauci told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Huh.


Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was

concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is.

Fauci's revelation that he wasn't included in the discussion last week directly contradicts what Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration's Chief Poobah In Charge Of COVID-19 Testing Not That We Have A National Strategy Or Ever Will. Wednesday afternoon, Giroir told reporters on a conference call that the new guidelines had the full task force's love and affection and approval.

Asked whether Fauci signed off on the guidelines, Giroir said, "Yes, all the docs signed off on this before it even got to the task force level."

"We worked on this all together to make sure that there was absolute consensus that reflected the best possible evidence, and the best public health for the American people," Giroir also said earlier in the call, pushing back on the notion that the new guidelines were the result of political pressure. "I worked on them, Dr. Fauci worked on them, Dr. (Deborah) Birx worked on them. Dr. (Stephen) Hahn worked on them."

CNN had already reported that a "federal health official" had said the new guideline was "coming from the top down," meaning from higher ranks in the administration.

The whole mess reminds us of that time in 2004 when George W. Bush's White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to George Washington Hospital in DC to try to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the reauthorization of Bush's warrantless wiretaps program. Ashcroft, severely ill with pancreatitis, had actually been temporarily replaced by then-Deputy AG James Comey. But Gonzales knew Comey had said the program wasn't legal and that Comey wouldn't sign off on reauthorization. So Gonzales and Card made that late-night visit to the hospital to get a signature from Ashcroft, who was pretty out of it. Comey got wind of the plan and beat Gonzales and Card to the hospital, joined there by then-FBI director Robert Mueller.

So yeah, Republicans and hospitals, only Fauci didn't have anyone speaking up for him.

Donald Trump has long insisted, because his medical knowledge comes from his very scientific ass, that if only the US didn't test so much, there wouldn't be as many cases of the disease and everything would be fine. Perhaps he never learned object permanence as a baby.

Nonetheless, Giroir insisted there's been no pressure from the White House, because this was done all scientific-like, nice and legal, see?

This is evidence-based decisions that are driven by the scientists and physicians, both within the CDC with my office in the lab Task Force, and certainly among the task force members.

As of yet, the CDC isn't releasing any data at all that would support the decision, and most public health experts are alarmed — or for another GW Bush throwback, "hair on fire" — that the new language might lead to asymptomatic people spreading the disease because they feel fine and the CDC said no test was necessary.

CDC Director Robert Redfield pretended to "clarify" Thursday that the new guidelines didn't mean people who aren't experiencing symptoms shouldn't get tested, just that they don't have to, but testing certainly "may be considered" for asymptomatic people who have been exposed. Which is just about as weaselly as it sounds. Look at this asshole:

Testing is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives. 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. [...] Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.

If Redfield clarifies that any more, his head may fall right off. Already, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York have said their states' testing programs will continue to use the older CDC guidelines; Cuomo called the changes "indefensible."

We'll keep you updated on this cluisterfuck, especially if William Barr starts skulking around DC in a white lab coat.

[CNN / STAT / CNN / Salon]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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