Former CDC Director and Resolve to Save Lives President and CEO, Dr. Tom Frieden, Urges New York City Residents with Mild Symptoms Not to Seek Care or Get Tested at This Time

27 March 2020 – Today, Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, a global health organization headquartered in New York, released the following statement urging New York City Residents with mild symptoms not to seek care or get tested at this time:

“If you’re in New York and you have some of the symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough and fever, I urge you not to get tested if those symptoms are only mild. Every non-essential test delays tests and uses scarce protective equipment needed for someone who is very sick. This means that soon healthcare workers may not have necessary safety equipment, including masks, to treat hospitalized patients.

On the other hand, if you are short of breath with cough and fever, definitely seek care, and do so safely. Call ahead. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask, scarf, bandana, or other piece of clothing.

Why not get tested if you have mild symptoms? Six reasons. If you’re only mildly ill and get tested:

1. You use up medical equipment and tests others need more.

2. You might infect others as you travel to and seek care.

3. If you don’t have the infection, you could get it in the process of traveling and getting tested, especially since health care gets less safe when more people are waiting for it — including people with only mild symptoms.

4. It’s not going to change what you should do: Stay home and isolate yourself. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should be assumed to have it. The test result won’t change what you or your doctor do.

5. The test can be negative even if you have the virus, leading you to infect others if you don’t stay isolated.

6. Right now, testing positive won’t lead to useful action or meaningful data: The Health Department won’t be able to trace your contacts or confirm where you were infected because too many people are positive, and because this would not be as important in fighting COVID-19 at present than other urgent work, including preventing and stopping outbreaks in nursing homes and hospitals.”


About Dr. Tom Frieden

Dr. Tom Frieden is former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department. He is currently president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a global non-profit initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and part of the global non-profit Vital Strategies. Resolve to Save Lives works with countries to prevent 100 million deaths and to make the world safer from epidemics. @DrTomFrieden.

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a five-year, $225 million initiative funded byBloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gates Philanthropy Partners, which is funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is part of the global organization Vital Strategies. To find out more visit: or Twitter @ResolveTSL

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

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Media Contacts:

Erin Sykes, Resolve to Save Lives; [email protected]; +1.646.612.0001

Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies; [email protected]; +1.914.424.3356

Media Contact

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About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a not-for-profit organization partnering with countries, communities and organizations to prevent 100 million deaths from cardiovascular disease and make the world safer from epidemics. To find out more, visit: or Twitter @ResolveTSL.