President Donald Trump's latest line on the coronavirus is to claim that it is a hoax intended to hurt his campaign. But even putting that aside, there is still the question of exactly how widespread the virus is in the United States or what the potential for a large-scale outbreak is.
On MSNBC Saturday, health policy analyst Laurie Garrett warned that there is no way to know for sure — in large part, because our testing capabilities are nowhere near where they need to be.
"It's far more infectious than the flu and far more deadly than the flu," said Garrett, referring to comments from Trump and radio host Rush Limbaugh that it was no worse than the flu. "And it is like trying to keep from getting a cold. The best way to think about it is half of all common colds are from the same family of viruses, coronaviruses. If you think about how hard it is to not get a cold when your child comes home sneezing from school or when you go to the office and somebody you work with has a cold, then you realize how contagious it is."
"The CDC can't do the test ... this is the problem," continued Garrett. "The test failed. The test isn't working. It has to be completely rethought, remade. And now the problem is you have jurisdiction after jurisdiction around the country saying, FDA, loosen your rules, let us develop our own tests. We can do it faster. We have the technology in place, we have the scientists in place. Let us do our testing."
"In the entire United States, we've only tested about 450 people. That's it," said Garrett. "And you look across the world, and all sorts of countries are way ahead of us with tens of thousands of people having been tested. Even up to a million people being tested. We have no idea how pervasive this virus is in America. And anybody who's telling you otherwise is full of crap."