'Creates more problems than it's worth': CDC eases COVID-19 testing recommendations for vaccinated people
Vaccinated people can not only avoid masks most of the time, but also limit COVID-19 tests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said vaccinated people with no symptoms most often do not need to be tested, even if they are exposed to the virus. People who are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms should also not be screened at random, according to the CDC.
The CDC's easing of masking restrictions and updated testing guidelines are due to the fact that large private employers and universities are still routinely testing vaccinated employees and students.
People can still get COVID-19 after vaccination, but they are much less likely to get sick and are also less likely to pass the virus on to others. Experts say the agency's updated testing recommendations are in line with previous guidelines and are designed to avoid unnecessary testing and interference.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety, said people who were vaccinated are unlikely to test positive. Similarly, vaccinated people with no symptoms who test positive have an "extremely low" chance of transmitting COVID-19 to others, Nuzzo said.
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"We try not to test people with an extremely low chance of getting infected," said Nuzzo, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "It probably creates more problems than it's worth."
The CDC continues to recommend that people showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested. Also, vaccinated people should be tested with no symptoms if they are in a prison or homeless shelter. All healthcare workers and nursing home residents with an active outbreak must also be routinely tested until no new cases are detected for two weeks.
The stricter testing recommendations for prisons and long-term care facilities, even if staff are fully vaccinated, are necessary as these are higher-risk facilities, experts say.
"There's a reason we want to test in such situations," said Dr. Eric Blank, Chief Program Officer of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. "If there's an exposure, do you want to find out if it's from your home or from a visitor, or is that a real breakthrough?"
According to Blank, the need for testing is much less urgent in lower risk environments such as universities, private companies, or even professional sports teams. People are considered protected two weeks after completing their final vaccine dose.
Rapid tests that examine large numbers of people in a low-case environment may be less sensitive. And if a person tests positive with a rapid antigen test, that person may need to do a lab-based PCR test, which can keep a person off or work for a few days to check the results, Blank said.
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With this week's updated recommendations, the CDC said there is growing evidence that people who have been vaccinated are protected and less likely to pass the virus on to others.
"The bottom line is when you're vaccinated - I know it's a little harsh - but it seems like a waste of your time and money," Blank said. "We consider them protected. What is the point of screening?"
This week, three trainers, four support staff, and shortstop Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees tested positive for COVID-19 - despite all of them having been vaccinated.
As CDC director Dr. When Rochelle Walensky was asked about the Yankees outbreak on Thursday, she said: "We obviously need to learn more about this situation."
Dr. Geoffrey Baird, interim chairman of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington, said wearing, distancing and testing masks all help reduce the risk of COVID-19. The CDC's updated recommendations reflect the current lower risk across the country, but warned that the risk has not been eliminated.
"It's just that the risk is now much less and the consequences are much more harmless," Baird said. "Nothing is 100% effective."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID-19 test: CDC eases restrictions on people who have been vaccinated
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