People who aren't showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested more readily, ideally with easy-to-use, at-home tests, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night.
"I have been for a long time now, very, very much pushing the idea that you need to test people who are in the asymptomatic group," said Fauci, who reiterated his months-ago call "to flood the system with testing." For more about why this needs to happen, read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Dr. Fauci Says We Urgently Need to Get an Accurate Sense of Community Spread
Fauci said this was necessary to get an accurate sense of community spread, which in the case of COVID-19 has been occurring largely without symptoms. In addition to "highly specific, highly sensitive tests" that would enable identification, isolation and contact tracing for infected individuals, Fauci said he would like to see a widely available home COVID-19 test. "That's point-of-care, that you can do yourself," he explained. "Because if you can do that, you can get a situation where someone would know whether they're infected or whether the family they're bringing over the dinner is infected."
"But you need to have a lot of that," said Fauci, adding that the recent FDA-approved at-home test is "just the first step" because it requires a prescription. "I'd like to see one where you don't even require a prescription," he said. "We need to be able to have a good firm handle on who's infected and who's not."
"Let's stop thinking about it," he urged. "Let's just do it."
Asymptomatic Spread a Concern at Thanksgiving
The coronavirus has been especially tricky to control because infected people can spread the disease for 14 days without showing symptoms—and almost half of those infected may never show symptoms.
Partly because of this, COVID-19 cases are rising in all 50 states, driven by small gatherings as cooler weather forces many Americans indoors. As hospital beds fill nationwide, health officials are nervous about what the Thanksgiving holiday will mean for the infection rate and the ability of newly infected coronavirus patients to get care.
On Thursday, the CDC advised Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel and to limit gatherings to people who live in the same household, meaning those who have lived primarily in the same house for at least 14 days.
Fauci's Thanksgiving Advice
"Each and every family unit should do a risk-benefit determination about the holidays, about whether they want to have the traditional Thanksgiving meal," Fauci advised Thursday. "You take a look at your family and you say, do I have a person there who's an elderly person, a person with an underlying medical condition that might put them at an increased risk of a severe outcome? If they get infected, do I want to take that risk right now? Or do I want to say, maybe the prudent thing to do for now is to just pull back and just keep it within the family unit that you live with."
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.