A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory test kit for the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention diverged from their original messaging and said this week that much of the testing for COVID-19 may no longer be necessary — a notion that Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said Wednesday is “entirely bizarre.”

The revised CDC guidance states that those with mild symptoms may be able to get a test and a test may be offered. Cody said this directly conflicts with the local county order that outlines that anyone, with any symptoms, must be tested right away.

The new CDC revisions also state that if someone has been in contact with a confirmed case, they do not necessarily need to get tested.

“When I first heard about this change in guidelines, I actually did not believe it. It seemed entirely bizarre as it undercuts our very basic tenets of how we control an infectious disease,” Cody said. “Testing and having individuals know their status is foundational in our ability to control an infectious disease and certainly our ability to control COVID.”

She said, “This will particularly be important this winter as more respiratory viruses come and circulate. It will be very important to know whether your symptoms are from COVID or something else.”

The revision about testing after contacting with a known COVID-19 case “felt the most bizarre,” Cody said, because testing after contact with a case is essential for the safety of oneself, their loved ones and the community at large.

The county’s health order also requires health care facilities to test contacts of confirmed cases.

“I respect the CDC, have always done that through my career. However, I believe that these changes in the testing guidance have not come from the CDC directly,” Santa Clara County COVID-19 Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said. “I believe these changes from the guidance have come from further up the chain in the federal government … from the White House and they are misdirected.”

Fenstersheib shared that the county has upped its testing capabilities from 1,000 tests per day in the beginning of the pandemic to now 6,000 to 7,000 tests per day, and that will not be changing despite CDC revisions.

“Here in our county, in the county of Santa Clara, we are going to continue to work with all of our health care partners to ensure that they offer testing to the groups that need it,” Cody said. “And we, through our county health system are going to continue to offer mass testing at several sites as often and as robustly as we can for as long as it takes.”

There are more than 50 testing sites in Santa Clara County.

Testing sites do not require insurance, a doctor’s note, payment or symptoms and are available to all county residents regardless of immigration status.

To find a testing site or book an appointment, people can visit https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/covid19-testing.aspx.