Vermont to keep virus testing protocols despite CDC change

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FILE – In this July 23, 2020 file photo, health care workers prepare a COVID-19 test sample before a person self-administered a test at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Miami-Dade County Auditorium in Miami. Racial disparities in the the U.S. coronavirus epidemic extend to children, according to two sobering government reports released Friday, Aug. 7. One of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports looked at hospitalizations of children with COVID-19. Hispanic children were hospitalized at a rate eight times higher than white kids, and Black children were hospitalized at a rate five times higher, it found.(David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

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.

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