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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. has never really managed to get coronavirus testing right for any extended period of time, and now we're entering a new phase of potential dysfunction.

Driving the news: Democrats and some health care experts are livid over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest change to its testing guidelines, which now recommend against testing for asymptomatic people.

  • It's a flashback to the spring, when the U.S. could only perform a tiny number of tests and reserved them for the sickest patients.
  • It was true then, and remains true now, that an ideal testing strategy would not exclude asymptomatic people. Some 40% of all cases are asymptomatic, meaning a whole lot of people are likely spreading the virus without knowing it.

Between the lines: The U.S. is now conducting some 690,000 tests per week, but it still hasn't been enough to keep up with demand, causing delays of up to two weeks for test results — which renders them all but useless.

  • Cutting back on testing is a way to ease those backlogs, but at the cost of missing some infections.
  • Testing was declining even before the CDC revised its guidelines. It fell by about 5% over the past week.

The intrigue: Sources told multiple news outlets that the White House pressured the CDC to revise its guidelines. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration's "testing czar," said that wasn't true, and that the revisions came from the CDC and the White House's coronavirus task force.

  • But Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of that task force, told CNN, "I was under general anesthesia in the operating room and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding the new testing recommendations."
  • "I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is," he said.

What they're saying: The response to the change has been overwhelmingly negative.

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his state wouldn't follow the guidelines.
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges called them "irresponsible" and "a step backward."
  • "This is potentially dangerous ... I feel like this is going to make things worse," infectious disease physician Krutika Kuppalli told NYT.

Go deeper

Updated 5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office.
  2. Health: Coronavirus death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased COVID-19 testing can reduce transmission — Hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Vaccine: What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do — Obama, Bush and Clinton willing to take vaccine in public —WSJ: Pfizer expects to ship half as many COVID vaccines as planned in 2020.

Politicians come under fire for flouting COVID-19 rules

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Public officials across the U.S. are issuing new stay-at-home orders while urging Americans to practice social distancing, as coronavirus infections surge at an alarming pace.

Yes, but: A growing list of politicians have come under fire for shirking (at times, their own) restrictions and advisories aimed at preventing viral spread.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.