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Test Failure

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This is an excellent documentation of one of the Trump administration’s most critical failures:

When cases of the new coronavirus began emerging several weeks ago in California, Washington state and other pockets of the country, U.S. public-health officials worried this might be The Big One, emails and interviews show.

The testing program they rolled out to combat it, though, was a small one.

Limited testing has blinded Americans to the scale of the outbreak so far, impeding the nation’s ability to fight the virus through isolating the sick and their contacts, public-health officials say. As of early Wednesday, about 6,500 people in the U.S. had tested positive, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University show, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported only about 32,000 tests conducted at its facilities and other public-health labs.

[…]

CDC officials botched an initial test kit developed in an agency lab, retracting many tests. They resisted calls from state officials and medical providers to broaden testing, and health officials failed to coordinate with outside companies to ensure needed test-kit supplies, such as nasal swabs and chemical reagents, would be available, according to suppliers and health officials.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also involved in the response, finally opened testing to more outside labs, a run on limited stocks of some supplies needed for the CDC-developed test quickly depleted stores, lab operators and suppliers said. Hospital and commercial lab operators said the government didn’t reach out to enlist their help until it was too late.

The South Korean model of extensive testing is the only chance of avoiding a dismal tradeoff between “many more months of de facto house arrest/economic ruin” or “millions of unnecessary deaths.” Alas, that ship has already crossed the ocean, but hey at least James Comey got to avoid some hypthetical future criticism from Jason Chaffetz.

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