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Clay Marsh gives perspective on CDC easing COVID testing guidance

MORGANTOWN — COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh on Wednesday addressed some confusion the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has caused by changing its guidance for COVID-19 testing.

Rather than testing everyone who has been exposed, CDC now says, “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms you do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

Marsh said the guidance appears to be incomplete and they are awaiting further word. But, he speculated, the change might be based on the challenge of obtaining test results in a timely manner.

Medically, he said, the earliest testing should be done after exposure is five days. By five days, about 50% people who are infected but are asymptomatic or presymptomatic will test positive. By seven to eight days, 70% will test positive.

But if people are supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days after exposure, the delay in receiving test results might produce a degree of futility. CDC might be reasoning that it’s simply better to just stay quarantined to see if symptoms develop and not bother with a test, Marsh said.

“Maybe its just reasonable in selected cases to let people finish their quarantine as long as they remain asymptomatic for that 14-day period.”

While they await more from CDC, Marsh said, “We are still very aggressively testing and will remain so.”

Gov. Jim Justice and his panel fielded a question on possible problems related to building ventilation in nursing homes and schools.

Justice raised points he’s raised before about weighing the risks of being in the buildings against the risks of keeping things shut down.

Adjutant General James Hoyer said that the National Guard has members with hazardous materials and ventilation experience and works in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human resources to advising nursing homes and answer questions from schools on ventilation issues.

“It is an ongoing effort,” he said. “There’s a lot of research that continues to be done,” including by WVU working with the National Institutes of Health.

Justice provided his regular update on COVID numbers. Since Monday, 11 more people died, bringing the total to 190. Most of the deaths are taking place in nursing homes and among the elderly, which makes us realize the danger of COVID’s impact, he said.

The state saw 145 new cases in the last 24 hours, he said, bringing the total active cases to 1,749.

When Justice spoke, the state’s Rt value – a measure of potential spread– was .85, fifth best in the nation. By late afternoon, had the value up a hair, a .86, but fourth best.

The Rt alue has steadily declined since the mask mandate, he showed on a chart. “We see without any question whatsoever that wearing masks has worked. But we still have problems.”

There are 39 long-term care outbreaks, he said, with the eight worst in Grant, Kanawha, Logan, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh and Taylor counties. There are four church outbreaks – in Monroe, Cabell, Wood and Wyoming counties with 29 total cases.

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