Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks as United States President Donald Trump listens during the daily meeting of the coronavirus task force at the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
The Trump administration tried to suppress Covid-19 testing in the US last year by toning down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on who should be tested, a House panel said Monday .
In August, the CDC revised its Covid-19 testing guidelines to say that people who have no symptoms “don’t necessarily need a test” even after exposure to an infected person. The move has been widely criticized by public health professionals and politicians who said testing asymptomatic people is an important part of identifying and shutting down chains of spread.
Deputy Health Secretary Brett Giroir, who led the Trump administration’s testing efforts, vigorously denied allegations at the time that the White House had pressured health officials to change the guidelines.
The House Select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis released newly received emails Monday from a political official with the Department of Health and Human Services indicating that it was pressing for the new guidelines.
In the emails, former HHS scientific advisor Paul Alexander defended the change in testing guidelines and downplayed the importance of testing people without symptoms. He said it was “not the point of testing”. Alexander was brought to HHS by Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump ally who led the department’s communications last year, before leaving abruptly after accusing CDC scientists of the riot.
“Testing asymptomatic people for asymptomatic cases is not the point of testing because in the end we only reach low-risk asymptomatic people under quarantine and preventing the workforce from working,” wrote Alexander a day after the CDC changed the test instructions reported in an email to other HHS officials.
“Against this background, based on the prevailing data, it would be inappropriate to test schools and colleges / universities extensively. This will not allow them to reopen themselves optimally,” he added, defending the policy change.
In September, the CDC silently reversed the instructions, saying that anyone, even without symptoms, who has been in close contact with an infected person needs a Covid-19 test.
Rep. James Clyburn, DS.C., chairman of the committee investigating allegations of political influence in the country’s top health officials under the Trump administration, said in letters the CNBC wrote to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and the incumbent HHS Secretary Norris Cochran had directed that the emails are fresh evidence of political interference in the CDC under Trump.
The email, Clyburn said in the letters, “shows that political officials were involved in the decision to change the CDC’s guidelines and that the Trump administration changed the guidelines to reduce the number of tests and those Allow the virus to spread while the economy reopens quickly. ” . “
Clyburn added that the committee had requested more documents from the CDC and other agencies “to understand the full scope and implications of the Trump White House’s efforts to suppress coronavirus testing.”
Alexander is at the center of the ongoing investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s administration or his appointees have allowed politics to shape the nation’s response to the pandemic. In December, Clyburn posted a plethora of emails from Alexander and Caputo which, according to Clyburn, showed “a harmful pattern of political interference by administrative officials.”