MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s top public health official said Friday that the state will continue with its procedures to test people for the coronavirus, even if they are not showing symptoms, but have been exposed to someone who has been.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said he was responding to a change in policy announced early this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said it was not necessary to test people who have been in close contact with infected people, but don’t feel sick.
Levine said that testing people who may have been exposed to the virus, but aren’t showing symptoms, is needed to help contain outbreaks because people who have been infected can sometimes transmit it to others before showing symptoms. People who have been infected, but aren’t sick, can be quarantined to lessen the chance they can infect others.
“The whole strategy of containment, testing, isolating, contact tracing and quarantine has been fundamental to our success in Vermont and needs to continue,” Levine said during the twice-weekly virus briefing with Gov. Phil Scott and other top administration officials. ”Underpinning its success has been testing.”
The new federal guidance was posted earlier this week on the CDC’s website. The agency previously had advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
Across the country, public health experts questioned the change, saying that testing contacts of infected people is a core element of public health efforts to keep outbreaks in check, and that a large percentage of infected people—the CDC has said as many as 40%—exhibit no symptoms.
Vermont officials say the state’s effort to contain the virus, including rigorous testing, is working.
Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, who is managing Vermont’s COVID-19 data, said Friday that since the start of the pandemic, Vermont has maintained the lowest per capita infection rate and the state has maintained the lowest infection rate and rate of positive tests for the last seven days.
“Against almost any metric that you can measure, Vermont, by whether throughout the entire pandemic or more recently, Vermont continues to be the best in the nation,” Pieciak said.