Enlarge /. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is attending an event to develop coronavirus vaccines in the White House Rose Garden on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
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The botched introduction of COVID-19 tests did not affect the country's early response to the pandemic, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
CDC director Robert Redfield cited a new analysis released by the agency on Friday. The analysis suggests that the new corona virus spread in the country in late January or early February – but only in small quantities. The study appears in the CDC's weekly report on morbidity and mortality.
With the new data, Redfield argued that the extent of the spread in those early days was so small that additional tests made no difference in detecting the spread of the pandemic virus. If the CDC had originally created and expanded a functional test for COVID-19 – which it didn’t do – it would really be like looking for a needle in a haystack, Redfield said, according to the NPR.
Puzzlingly, he also claimed that new analysis shows that the country's outbreak monitoring systems can detect outbreaks early on. The analysis was based on four lines of evidence: genetic sequences from SARS-CoV-2 isolates, routine influenza surveillance tests, emergency room records, and information about two early California deaths that were subsequently found to be due to COVID are. 19th
"We had pretty good eyes," said Redfield of the outbreak. "And the availability of a diagnosis hasn't changed our ability to monitor."
Experts quickly denied Redfield's claims. Michael Mina, an infectious disease expert at Harvard, told NPR that the data, contrary to Redfield's claims, "demonstrates the need for extensive scale-ups and improvements in infectious disease surveillance in public health."
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, also noted that "no one argues that the US should have conducted extensive testing in January," Redfield seems to suspect. But "we should have carried out targeted surveillance tests … We still don't know exactly when COVID-19 was first introduced or how many people were infected. We could only have known this if we had carried out more extensive tests."
The United States is now one of the most affected countries in the world with more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other. This week, the United States passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths.