Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published guidelines on the website for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite objections from scientists at the health agency.
The guidance, which was published on the CDC website on 24 August, advised asymptomatic people not to get tested for coronavirus, even if they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.
Several people familiar with the incident told The New York Times that publishing the guidance went against the wishes of several scientists at the health agency.
The guidance was criticised by multiple public health experts after publication, and at the time, officials from the Trump administration said it was generated by CDC officials and edited by its director Robert Redfield.
However, several CDC officials told the Times earlier this week that the guidance was written and edited by HHS staff members, and was not subject to the standard review process.
Generally between 12 and 20 CDC officials have to approve public health guidance before it is published through the agency, according to The Hill.
A federal officer familiar with the incident told the Times: “That was a doc that came from the top down, from the HHS and the (White House coronavirus) task force.”
The officer said: “That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy,” and added that it contained “elementary errors” inconsistent with the agency’s previous advice.
Before the guidance was published by HHS officials, several CDC scientists saw a copy and objected to the advice, but were told by a senior official: “We do not have the ability to make substantial edits,” an email obtained by the Times read.
In a statement about the claims, an HHS spokesperson told The Hill: “As always, Guidelines receive appropriate attention, consultation and input from the medical and scientific experts on the Task Force.
“This was the case then, and will continue to be the case in the future."
There has been growing concern that CDC guidance is being affected by political interference, and last week Politico reported that the agency’s weekly coronavirus reports had been modified by HHS officials.
On Monday, house Democrats opened an investigation to determine whether aides of president Trump “sought to help him downplay the risk of the coronavirus crisis by attempting to alter, delay and block critical scientific reports from the CDC,” according to Forbes.
This was followed by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer calling for HHS secretary Alex Azar to resign over various reports of political influence over the CDC and other health agencies.
The Times reported that the CDC will be publishing revised guidance on Friday, but officials familiar with the matter said that the new advice has also not been subject to the standard review process.