Top Trump administration officials are preparing guidance that will recommend people who test positive for COVID-19 do not need to get retested to prove they no longer have the disease.
The move, previewed in a call with reporters by the administration’s testing coordinator Brett Giroir, comes as the U.S. testing system faces severe strains and a national backlog of results.
The guidance will represent a major change in ensuring people with COVID-19 don’t spread the disease.
Giroir said the change is meant to reduce unnecessary testing.
“This is a remnant of very early on when we had cruise ships and people in quarantine that said the first way to get out of quarantine was to have two negative tests 24 hours apart,” Giroir told reporters Thursday. “That is no longer needed, and it is medically unnecessary.”
Giroir said the guidance, which will be released in the coming days, will apply to people who are isolating at home after testing positive.
“If you are an individual who is not hospitalized and have COVID and are isolating at home, you do not need to be retested, period,” Giroir said.
Giroir said most people can leave isolation if they have been symptom free for three days, provided it’s been at least 10 days since their symptoms started.
Critically ill or immunodeficient patients may need to be retested, Giroir said.
“Those are the ones you consult your health care provider,” he said.
For “the great majority of people who are diagnosed who are just sick at home,” getting retested is “clogging up the system,” Giroir said.
Giroir said the guidance is not being issued as a way to prevent a shortages of tests, even as the system is being strained.
Quest Diagnostics, one of the main companies doing coronavirus testing, said Monday that “soaring demand” due to the surge in cases across the South and Southwest had pushed back their average turnaround time for getting results of a coronavirus test to at least seven days for all but the highest priority patients.
“There is no tactic about it,” Giroir said. “It is not a result of shortages, it is unnecessary. If we thought it was necessary to retest people, we would say so.”