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Cuomo says New York won’t follow CDC coronavirus guidance, rips into agency as Trump’s political tool

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a COVID-19 briefing in New York City.

David Dee Delgado | Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state won’t be following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance on coronavirus testing and urged others to do the same after the agency quietly revised its recommendations to downplay the importance of testing people without symptoms for Covid-19.

“Shame on the people at the CDC,” Cuomo said, calling the change in guidance “indefensible.” 

The new guidance, which was published on Monday, says that people without symptoms who were in close contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes “do not necessarily need a test.” The guidance still recommends vulnerable people to get tested if they’ve come within 6 feet of someone with a confirmed infection for at least 15 minutes.

“We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance. I consider it political propaganda. I would caution private companies against following the CDC guidance. I think it is wholly indefensible on its face. I think it is inherently self-contradictory. It is the exact opposite of what the CDC has been saying,” Cuomo said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “So either the CDC is schizophrenic or they are admitting error in their first position or this is just political dictations.”

Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who leads the Trump administration’s testing effort, said in a statement earlier Wednesday that the guidance was updated “to reflect current evidence and best public health practices.”

Epidemiologists and former health officials, including Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC under President Barack Obama, also criticized the policy change. 

Cuomo alleged that the testing recommendations were changed “because they don’t want publicity that there is a Covid problem.”

“Because the president’s politics are Covid isn’t the problem, we’re past Covid,” Cuomo said. “It’s all about the economy, and the economy is doing great. We’re going to focus on the economy. And that’s his reelection strategy. So he’s using the CDC as a campaign rhetorical device.”

Representatives from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Dr. Howard Zucker, the commissioner of health for New York, called the change in testing recommendations “indefensible” and said it “makes absolutely no sense.”

“I have spoken with the scientists at the CDC and they say it’s political,” Zucker added.

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