Wisconsin, Minnesota health departments reaffirm commitment to COVID-19 testing despite revised CDC policies

The states of Wisconsin and Minnesota both reaffirmed their commitment to expansive COVID-19 testing this week as the CDC revised its policies to recommend that fewer people receive tests.

Tuesday, the CDC revised its website to indicate asymptomatic people who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case do not necessarily need a test, “unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.” The announcement sparked a wave of confusion among experts. 

Across the country, public health experts called the change bizarre. They noted that testing contacts of infected people is a core element of public health efforts to keep outbreaks in check, and that a large percentage of infected people — the CDC has said as many as 40% — exhibit no symptoms.

The decision came out of meetings of a White House coronavirus task force, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Wisconsin plans to stay 'aggressive'

Despite that change, the state of Wisconsin announced Thursday that it still plans on “aggressive case finding through testing all individuals with high risk exposures to COVID-19.”

The state called it a key strategy to limiting the spread of the virus and reaffirmed its recommendation that all who have come into close contact with an infected person should be tested regardless of symptoms.

State health officials say 65 out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are still reporting high levels of COVID-19. In the months of July and August, the state’s average newly confirmed cases per day was 765, compared to just 345 cases per day in May and June.

“During this severe phase of the COVID-19 epidemic, the disease containment activities of testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine are more important than ever, and require close collaboration among health care and public health partners,” said the Department of Health Services in a release Thursday.

Minnesota diversifies, expands testing

Across the border to the west, Minnesota announced a new partnership that will expand testing in the state as well.

Wednesday, Gov. Walz announced Minnesota partnered with the nation’s leading distributor of saliva testing which the state expects will more than double the current test processing capacity.

Minnesota plans to set up 10 semi-permanent saliva testing sites. They will be open to the public.