CDC Modifies COVID-19 Testing Guidance

Aug. 27, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its diagnostic testing categories to focus on asymptomatic individuals who are deciding whether or not to get a COVID-19 test.

Updated on Monday, the CDC’s new recommendations say asymptomatic individuals “who have not been in close contact with someone known to have a COVID-19 infection” do not need a test.

The CDC previously said, “Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.”

The revised guidelines also say individuals “do not necessarily need a test” if they:

  • “Have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms;” or   
  • “Are in a high COVID-19 transmission area and have attended a public or private gathering of more than 10 people (without widespread mask wearing or physical distancing).”

Testing in those cases should occur if individuals are considered vulnerable—including older adults and anyone with certain underlying medical conditions—or if their healthcare provider or state or local public health officials recommend the test.

In response to the revised guidelines, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) today reminded all Illinois residents of the importance of getting tested, including after close contact with someone who has tested positive. An IDPH news release noted that studies show asymptomatic individuals are still able to spread COVID-19. IDPH will continue to advise testing for anyone who comes into close contact with a confirmed case, as testing is a key component of the Pritzker Administration’s strategy to combat the virus.

“In the face of increasing infections, we need to promote more testing, not less, to identify new cases and interrupt further transmission,” said IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, M.D. “Given that asymptomatic individuals have been linked to virus spread, we will maintain our more stringent guidance to support testing of any Illinois resident who thinks they may have been exposed, as well as asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases 5-7 days post exposure.”

Testing is free at state-operated sites and several other sites. More information about testing locations, times and requirements can be found here.