SHEA Statement on Changes to CDC Testing Guidance

August 27, 2020

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) vehemently disagrees with the recent revision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of its COVID-19 testing guidelines as it undermines the importance of testing asymptomatic individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19. SHEA calls for an immediate revision of these guidelines to underscore the criticality of testing and contact tracing as a primary means of combating the pandemic.

To gain the upper hand in this pandemic, our country needs dramatically increased testing, not only of individuals exposed to patients suspected or known to harbor COVID-19, but also of other populations of asymptomatic people including individuals living in high prevalence areas; individuals who work in hospitals, medical clinics, and skilled nursing facilities, and students in colleges, universities and primary schools. While the exact timing of such testing in relation to exposure can be debated, broad-scale testing is critically important because COVID-19 has been proven to be transmitted frequently by asymptomatically and pre-symptomatically infected persons.

SHEA advocates the broadest scale testing possible, given the constraints of current testing capabilities. We also advocate for the further expansion of testing capabilities in the U.S., to keep pace with demand while reducing unacceptable delays in results reporting as delays in results reporting hinder contact tracing. Testing capacity has persisted as a barrier to the successful control of the pandemic and this shortcoming should be urgently addressed at the national level.

Whereas SHEA does prioritize testing of individuals who have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, because of the importance of asymptomatic transmission in the ongoing spread of the disease, exposed contacts must also be tested. The revised CDC guidelines are in direct contradiction to evidence-based public health guidelines for identifying new cases of an epidemic disease, aggressively tracing contacts of new cases, and isolating and testing contacts known to be exposed. These principles are cornerstones of the public health management of an infectious disease epidemic. SHEA finds these revised CDC guidelines particularly problematic at a time when testing is already decreasing in the country, despite the aggressive spread of the virus. SHEA urges CDC to rescind these revised guidelines immediately and include exposed contacts as individuals who need not only quarantine but also testing.


The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals around the world who possess expertise and passion for healthcare epidemiology, infection prevention, and antimicrobial stewardship. The society’s work improves public health by establishing infection-prevention measures and supporting antibiotic stewardship among healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems. This is accomplished by leading research studies, translating research into clinical practice, developing evidence-based policies, optimizing antibiotic stewardship, and advancing the field of healthcare epidemiology. SHEA and its members strive to improve patient outcomes and create a safer, healthier future for all. Visit SHEA online at and

Contact: Tamara Moore | | 202-868-4008

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