The Slatest

The Trump Administration Reportedly Rewrote CDC Testing Guidance to Discourage Expanded Testing

Trump claps while standing onstage behind American flag bunting.
Dr. Trump will see you now. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Last month’s controversial testing guidelines that suddenly deviated from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s previous stance to encourage Americans to get tested for the coronavirus were not formulated by the agency’s scientists and were posted on the CDC’s website without undergoing the normal scientific review process, the New York Times reports. Instead, the guidelines—which were revised to recommend that individuals exposed to the virus but not exhibiting symptoms should not get tested—were composed by the Department of Health and Human Services and posted to the health agency’s site over the objections of CDC scientists.

“The document contains ‘elementary errors’—such as referring to ‘testing for Covid-19,’ as opposed to testing for the virus that causes it—and recommendations inconsistent with the C.D.C.’s stance that mark it to anyone in the know as not having been written by agency scientists, according to a senior C.D.C. scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a fear of repercussions,” according to the Times. “The information comes mere days after revelations that political appointees at H.H.S. meddled with the C.D.C.’s vaunted weekly reports on scientific research.”

The general suspicion is that the Trump administration is trying to suppress the number of positive cases by discouraging testing of asymptomatic cases, even though they are widely considered a significant driver of the virus’s spread. How do we know that the Trump administration might just want to keep that number down via reduced testing? Because the leader of the Trump administration, President Donald Trump himself, has suggested so over and over and over again.

Fewer tests, fewer cases of the coronavirus! 1+1=Apple. Absolutely genius. It’s, of course, not an actual solution, but the appearance of one, which is all Trump has ever been after—at least until Nov. 3, after which, one way or another, he won’t even have to feign interest. That’s why there are more and more accounts emerging of political fiddling with the scientific process of assessing the U.S. pandemic response. The decision of what to do with the scientific information, and how to implement it, is surely a political decision, but the actual science upon which decisions are being made shouldn’t be. The CDC is set to issue new, revised guidelines shortly, which the Times reports have been written by a scientist at the CDC, but are currently being edited by HHS and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.