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Health Officials Call On US Government to Reverse COVID-19 Test Guidelines

By VOA News August 29, 2020

Public health departments throughout the United States are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse changes the federal agency recently made to its public coronavirus testing guidelines.

The Big Cities Health Coalition and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, which represent thousands of local departments, sent a letter Friday to the heads of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the agencies reverse a decision to stop testing people who have been exposed to the virus but are asymptomatic.

The CDC had previously recommended testing for all people who had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms.

The organizations called on the government agencies to reinstate recommendations that people who have been exposed to the virus be tested even if they are asymptomatic.

In the letter, the groups say the CDC's decision this week "costs lives and livelihoods" and that "the CDC's own data suggest that perhaps as many as 40% of COVID-19 cases are attributable to asymptomatic transmission."

CDC Director Robert Redfield responded to criticism over the revised guidelines by saying "testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients."

At least 33 states are not following the new CDC guidelines and continue to recommend testing for all people who have been exposed to COVID-19 regardless of symptoms, according to an analysis by Reuters news agency.

COVID-19 vaccine

Separately, President Donald Trump said Thursday that the U.S. will have a vaccination for the coronavirus "before the end of the year or maybe even sooner."

The announcement was part of Trump's speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House as part of the party's national convention.

Experts say vaccines can sometimes take decades to develop, test, and be proved safe before they are administered to patients. However, hope has been high that a concerted international effort will produce an effective vaccine sometime next year.

"In recent months our nation and the entire planet has been struck by a new and powerful invisible enemy," Trump told the South Lawn audience whose mostly maskless members were not sitting 2 meters apart, a measure generally practiced to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The president has rarely been seen in public wearing a mask, another practice to help stop the spread of the virus.

Cases globally

The United States has nearly 6 million COVID-19 cases, the most of any country, and roughly one-fifth of the world's more than 24.7 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil follows the U.S. with more than 3.8 million cases, and India comes in third with more than 3.4 million.

India said early Friday that it had recorded 77,266 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hour period, the highest daily total ever recorded in the South Asian nation.

Indonesia reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases Friday, the biggest rise in new cases for a second consecutive day.

Europe tightened restrictive measures on Friday after a surge in coronavirus cases.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the coronavirus crisis will be "more difficult" in the fall and winter.

In France, wearing masks in public became mandatory Friday for everyone in Paris. The country reported more than 7,300 new confirmed cases Friday, the most since France came out of lockdown. The daily total was close to the record of more than 7,500 cases set March 31 at the height of the initial wave of infections in France.

Spain says all children 6 years of age and up must wear masks while in school. The announcement comes just days before the beginning of Spain's school year.

Hungary announced Friday it would close its borders to foreigners beginning September 1 in an effort to stop a rise in new coronavirus infections. Officials said Hungarians returning from abroad after that date would have to be quarantined for 14 days unless they tested negative twice for COVID-19.

Canada also extended the closure of its border to nonessential travel through September. The closure has been in effect since mid-March.

In South America, Mexico reported 5,824 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 552 more deaths from the disease, for a total of 585,738 and 63,146 respectively. Mexico is the third county in the world for the number of deaths.

Meanwhile, a group of South American leaders, has agreed to share information and coordinate access to any vaccine one of them might develop or acquire.

"A joint effort would bring benefits, particularly in terms of access, quantities and guaranteed prices," Chile's foreign minister, Andres Allamand, said after Thursday's virtual meeting of presidents and foreign ministers.

"We in Chile are following the evolution of at least five projects, and we have been in contact with some of those laboratories and countries specifically to be able to get access to those vaccines at reasonable prices and as quickly as possible," he said.

The total number of reported cases worldwide has now topped 24.7 million, with more than 832,000 deaths since the virus was first reported in China about nine months ago.

In Brief:

- Global cases top 24.7 million, with more than 832,000 deaths
- U.S. has nearly 6 million cases, Brazil more than 3.8 million and India over 3.4 million
- Mexico reported 5,824 new cases Friday and 552 more deaths; it is third in total deaths
- Indonesia reported over 3,000 new cases Friday, biggest increase for the second day
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel says crisis will be "more difficult" in fall, winter
- Hungary to close borders to foreigners September 1
- Canada extends closure of border to nonessential travel through September

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