The Covid Crisis

The Lack of Testing In The US

The Covid Crisis

Kaelyn Klatte, Staff Writer

This article was written on March 28 , 2020. 

As I am writing this article, I am sitting on my bed watching Outbreak and contemplating the severity of the situation that lies before us. Similar to the virus in Outbreak, the coronavirus, is a deadly, highly virulent disease, for which scientists are still trying to develop a specialized vaccine. Unlike the movie, the coronavirus is real. As an epidemiology enthusiast, I understand that proper diagnosis and testing leads to isolation of infected patients, and thus, a decreased likelihood of further cases. The government has not done enough to prevent and surveil cases, especially when it comes to testing.

So why is the US not testing probable cases? The answer to this question lies within the Centers for Disease Control’s cabinet and public health laboratories.

When President Donald Trump first took office, he began rearranging and budgeting federal agencies, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was not spared. In fact, Trump eliminated the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense Office, or the White House pandemic office, that the Obama-Biden Administration established. Its sole purpose was to prepare for future pandemics, and the elimination of this office “has contributed to the federal government’s sluggish domestic response [to the coronavirus pandemic],” says Beth Cameron, former head of the White House pandemic office.

With less money and a new system in place, the CDC is less capable of managing and testing for the coronavirus. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that the system “is not really geared to what we need right now” and is “failing” to protect the safety of US citizens.

Up until March 5th, a mere 7,000 tests were run per day, and only five states–aside from the CDC–had the proper capabilities to produce, distribute, and run tests. In order to properly prevent exposure and further outbreak of Covid-19, this number should be at least 3.5 times that amount. Labs are struggling to get the proper supplies needed to meet the ever increasing demand for tests. The CDC hoped to solve this issue and sent a number of testing kits across the country.

Lab workers soon discovered that these testing kits were faulty, thus making them unusable. They wasted thousands of dollars developing and distributing a test kit that the CDC didn’t bother to test properly, clearly demonstrating the incapability of the federal government to handle this situation.

In addition, to “save” the currently available tests for “those who have a higher risk of contracting the disease,”’ the CDC recommended lab facilities to only test people who both show symptoms of a respiratory illness and have been to China or have come into contact with a confirmed case. Many health experts have called on the CDC to expand the guidelines, although the department appears to be slow to act upon this.

Strict testing and test development laws from the FDA haven’t made this process any smoother. The Washington Post states that “other tests from commercial and academic labs can’t be used without FDA approval,” which is known to be a painfully slow process. Due to the lack of proper testing, it is likely that there will be undetected outbreaks. In fact, “communities in Northern California” have seen a “significant increase in the number of hospital patients with serious, unexplained lung infections,” and none of them have gotten a test yet.

The fact that people in China have begun to test positive, even after recovering, suggests that we might be in for a second wave of the virus. Hopefully by then, the federal government will have learned from these past few months and have gotten a plan for disease containment in action. We can only hope that soon, like in the movie Pandemic, scientists will have developed proper testing kits and a cure for the disease.