According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.
As it turned out, that test was flawed.
Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, “On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing ‘unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,’ according to an email summarizing the call.”
Three weeks later, “one of the first CDC test kits arrived in a Federal Express package at a public health laboratory on the east side of Manhattan,” at a time when patients were reporting COVID-19 symptoms in the U.S.
“For hours, lab technicians struggled to verify that the test worked. Each time, it fell short, producing untrustworthy results,” the Post reports adding that technicians were forced to tell Jennifer Rakeman, an assistant commissioner in the New York City health department, it failed to which she reportedly replied, “Oh, sh*t. What are we going to do now?”
The report goes on to state, “In the 21 days that followed, as Trump administration officials continued to rely on the flawed CDC test, many lab scientists eager to aid the faltering effort grew increasingly alarmed and exasperated by the federal government’s actions.”
“In their private communications, scientists at academic, hospital and public health labs — one layer removed from federal agency operations — expressed dismay at the failure to move more quickly and frustration at bureaucratic demands that delayed their attempts to develop alternatives to the CDC test,” the Post reports.
In an email, Marc Couturier, medical director at academic laboratory ARUP in Utah, wrote, “We have the skills and resources as a community but we are collectively paralyzed by a bloated bureaucratic/administrative process.”
“The administration embraced a new approach behind closed doors that very day, concluding that “a much broader” effort to testing was needed, according to an internal government memo spelling out the plan. Two days later, the administration announced a relaxation of the regulations that scientists said had hindered private laboratories from deploying their own tests,” the report continues before adding, “By then, the virus had spread across the country. In less than a month, it would upend daily life, shuttering the world’s largest economy and killing thousands of Americans.”
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