Fauci: CDC reflects on COVID test requirement for asymptomatic people

WASHINGTON (AP) – As the COVID-19 omicron variant increases across the United States, senior federal health officials seek to add a negative test along with its five-day isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who catch it the coronavirus, the White House’s top medical adviser said on Sunday.

Dr Anthony Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now considering including the negative test as part of its guidance after receiving a significant “pushback” on its updated recommendations last week.

Under those Dec. 27 guidelines, isolation restrictions for people infected with COVID-19 have been reduced from 10 days to five days if they no longer experience symptoms or have a fever. After this period, they are asked to spend the next five days wearing a mask when surrounded by other people.

The guidelines have since been criticized by many medical professionals for not specifying a negative antigen test as a condition for leaving isolation.

“There has been some concern as to why we are not asking people during this five-day period to get tested,” Fauci said. “Come to think of it, there may be an option, that testing could be part of it, and I think we’ll hear more about that about the next day or so from the CDC.”

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the United States has seen a “vertical increase” in new cases, now averaging 400,000 cases per day, with hospitalizations also on the rise.

“We are definitely in the midst of a very large increase and an increase in the number of cases,” he said. “The acceleration of cases we’ve seen is unprecedented, far beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

Fauci said he was concerned the omicron variant could overwhelm the healthcare system and cause a “major disruption” to other essential services.

“When I say major disruption you’re definitely going to see strain on the system and the system being people doing any type of job… especially with jobs that are critical to keeping the company running normally,” Fauci said. . “We already know that there are reports from fire departments, police departments in different cities that 10, 20, 25 and sometimes 30% of people are sick. And that’s something we have to be concerned about because we want to make sure that we don’t have such an impact on society that there really is a disruption. I hope that will not happen.

Although there is “accumulating evidence” that omicron could cause less severe disease, he warned that the data remains early. Fauci said he was particularly worried about the tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans because “many of them will contract serious illness.”

He urged Americans who have not yet been vaccinated and boosted to do so and to mask themselves indoors to protect themselves and mitigate the current spate of cases in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration said last week that preliminary research indicated rapid home tests detect omicron, but may have reduced sensitivity. The agency said it is still studying test performance with the variant, which was first detected in late November.

Fauci said Americans “shouldn’t feel like these tests aren’t helpful.”

“I think the confusion is that rapid antigen testing has never been more sensitive than PCR testing,” Fauci said. “They are very good when given sequentially. So if you do them like maybe two or three times over a period of a few days, at the end of the day they are as good as PCR, but as a single test they are not as sensitive.

A PCR test usually needs to be processed in a laboratory. The test looks for the virus’s genetic material, then reproduces it millions of times until it is detectable by a computer.

Fauci said if Americans take the necessary precautions, the United States may soon see a semblance of more normal life return.

“One of those things that we’re hoping is that this thing will peak after a period of a few weeks and backfire,” Fauci said. He expressed hope that by February and March, the omicron could drop to a level low enough “not to disrupt our society, our economy, our way of life.”

Fauci has spoken on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union”.

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