Controversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report

Source: The Hill | September 17, 2020 | Justine Coleman

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that advised people without COVID-19 symptoms not to get tested were written by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials, not scientists, The New York Times reported Thursday. 

The controversial guidance published Aug. 24 was posted despite scientists’ objections to the contents, according to several people familiar with the matter and internal documents obtained by the Times. The CDC advised asymptomatic people not to get tested even if they had interacted with someone who has COVID-19, sparking widespread criticism from public health experts. 

Administration officials had told the Times at the time that the guidance came from the CDC and was edited by CDC Director Robert Redfield. But officials told the newspaper this week that HHS staff rewrote the document and published it on the CDC’s website without going through the traditional review process. The review would typically require 12 to 20 people to approve the document.

“That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the task force,” a federal official with knowledge of the matter told the Times, referring to the White House coronavirus task force. “That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy.”

When CDC scientists saw copies of the current guidance in early August and objected, a senior CDC official told the scientists, “We do not have the ability to make substantial edits,” according to an email obtained by The Times.

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