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You Should Get Tested For Coronavirus Even If You Don’t Have Symptoms, Chicago’s Top Doctor Says

The federal government now says people don't need to be tested for coronavirus if they're asymptomatic — but that's not what Chicago experts recommend.

The COVID-19 Testing Center at Innovative Express Care in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on Monday, April 27, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — People who think they have been exposed to coronavirus but are asymptomatic should still get tested, despite new federal guidelines, the city’s top health official said.

Earlier this week, the federal government revised its guidelines for testing, saying people who have been in close contact with an infected person don’t necessarily need to be tested if they don’t have symptoms. The change has been met with controversy — and Chicago’s not following the guidance.

The American Medical Association, the former head of the CDC and other epidemiologists and scientists said the Trump administration’s guidance that asymptomatic people shouldn’t get tested will lead to “more spikes in coronavirus.”

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Thursday that Chicago still recommends people get tested if they’ve been exposed to coronavirus. That applies whether the person has symptoms or doesn’t.

Arwady hinted politics — and the presidential election Nov. 3 — might have played a role in the federal attempt to downplay testing.

“I am a little concerned about conflicting messages at the federal level,” Arwady said during a livestream. As the election nears, “there is a lot of desire to, perhaps, downplay the COVID ongoing issues that we have here.

“… Everybody wants the economy going, but we need to sort of balance, obviously, sort of COVID risk against economy.”

The city’s Department of Public Health was included in a call about the changed guidelines, Arwady said, and the federal government told local officials they want to “defer to local or state health departments in terms of these recommendations.”

While Arwady said she trusts the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chicago is going to continue testing people who are asymptomatic, as are health departments across northern Illinois.

People who were exposed but are asymptomatic should quarantine and wait five to eight days after the exposure to get tested, Arwady said. The city offers free testing for everyone.

Even if a person gets a negative result, they should quarantine until it’s been 14 days since their potential exposure, Arwady said.

Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Chicago for several months, and the United States as a whole has struggled to get its outbreak under control.

Despite that, President Donald Trump has tried to reduce coronavirus testing.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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