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Weakened CDC Testing Guidance Jeopardizes Public Health

NASHVILLE, TN, August 28, 2020 – The emergence of COVID-19 has created tremendous challenges for Health Care for the Homeless programs and others who deliver health care and support services to people who are homeless. Shelters, food programs, and the broader homeless services systems in every community have also been challenged to find ways to keep this vulnerable population safe. Central to these efforts is the ability to identify, track, and control the virus through testing and contact tracing activities. 

At clinical programs, the ability to test individual patients is vital to providing good care and protecting public health. For months now, local communities have been creating the partnerships needed to conduct surveillance testing activities in shelters, encampments, and other venues. Public health departments are working overtime to conduct contact tracing so they can identify and isolate those who may be positive. All these activities are based on evidence-based science and long-understood norms of infectious disease protocols.

Recent changes to CDC guidance that reduce testing recommendations for those who have been in contact with COVID-19 positive individuals go against public health protocols and undermine the hard work that communities have been doing. Further, we are alarmed at reports that these changes were made to satisfy political interests, rather than driven by science. We need to be conducting more testing, not less

“People experiencing homelessness have poorer health and are at an increased risk for COVID-19 infections as well as complications from the disease. The CDC’s recent recommendation weakening testing protocols for those who are asymptomatic—but known to have had contact to persons with COVID-19—will have disastrous consequences both individually to those experiencing homelessness and to community shelter systems,” says Mary Tornabene, MS, APRN, FNP-BC, Nurse Practitioner at Heartland Alliance Health in Chicago and Chair of NHCHC’s Clinician’s Network.

The abdication of federal leadership, the ongoing efforts to politicize this disease, and the apparent disinterest in Congress to address the imminent loss of housing and income for millions of American families is outright appalling. In response to this recent change, we call on CDC to reconsider these changes and assert its role as an independent public health authority that is not influenced by external factors. We also ask that every community increase testing activities and conduct assertive contact tracing for those who are exposed but asymptomatic. Our ability to beat this disease depends on it.

Contact: Barbara DiPietro, Ph.D., Senior Director of Policy, 443-703-1346, bdipietro@nhchc.org

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