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CDC quicksteps on latest COVID-19 testing guidance

NEW YORK — A top U.S. health official triggered a new round of confusion while trying to clarify a change to the coronavirus testing guidance.

The change posted this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was sharply criticized by public health experts.

The CDC had previously advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. The guidance posted Monday said those people did “not necessarily need a test” unless they were more vulnerable to COVID-19. It also said a doctor or public health officials could still recommend a test.

After the change was attacked, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield issued a statement Wednesday, attempting to explain it, saying “Testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”

The statement said health officials were putting an emphasis on testing certain people, including those with symptoms and people who are most vulnerable for severe illness, like nursing home patients. But it also said testing should be emphasized for “individuals with a significant exposure.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, insisted Thursday that Redfied’s statement wasn’t a “walk back” of the posted guidance, as some called it.

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