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C.D.C. Reverses Testing Guidelines for People Without Covid-19 Symptoms

In the case of this controversial guidance in August, the agency’s scientists saw early versions and made their disagreements known, but said their concerns went unheeded.

Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the administration’s testing coordinator and an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency’s parent organization, said in an interview on Thursday that the document had come from the C.D.C., but that he had edited and revised it, with input from scientific and medical members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Dr. Scott Atlas, the president’s scientific adviser.

Admiral Giroir did not respond to a request for comment on the new guidance.

Public health organizations said they were relieved to see science prevail again. “It is critical that science, evidence and data continue to serve as the foundation of every C.D.C. recommendation,” Dr. Mary Pittman, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Public Health Institute, said in a statement.

Dr. Susan Bailey, who heads the American Medical Association, a close partner of the C.D.C., said: “This decision acknowledges that our nation’s best interest is served when health care institutions are free to keep science at the fore of their decision-making and guidance.”

The new guidance also corrects some elementary errors C.D.C. scientists said they would never have made. It accurately refers to infection with the virus, for example, as opposed to the Covid-19 disease as the previous version did. And it does not refer to at-risk individuals as “vulnerable,” a term C.D.C. scientists generally avoid.

Still, the rapidly changing guidance has created “mass confusion,” Dr. Wen warned. Testing sites may still be turning away people, and insurance companies may be denying coverage to those without symptoms, she said.

She and others also lamented the blows to the agency’s credibility.

“One of the most important tools the C.D.C. has and the government has in times of crises is trust,” said Dr. Richard Besser, who served as acting director of the agency in 2009. “When you lose trust, it’s really hard to regain it.”

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