In interviews on major TV channels on Sunday, U.S. officials almost admitted that efforts to curb the spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus have failed and the country must take action to mitigate the health effects of the continued spread of the disease and the nation's economy.
"We are now seeing a spread of the community and trying to help people understand how the effects of the spread of disease can be mitigated," said US surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams on Sunday on CBS & # 39; Face the Nation.
Dr.'s concerns Adams were founded by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Health Institutes, confirmed.
"There comes a time," said Fauci in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, "if you have a containment that you want to find out who is infected and isolate them." And when and when that happens – and I hope if and not when – you get so many people who are infected that the best thing you have to do is what we call damaging in addition to containment. "
The recordings are supported by data from Johns Hopkins University, which shows that despite government efforts to curb the novel coronavirus by spreading to the United States, at least 474 people in at least 31 countries are currently infected with the virus.
Accurate information is difficult to ascertain as the centers for disease control and prevention said that earlier this week it would no longer be able to provide an official list of tests being performed or under investigation. The CDC made the decision because states and private institutions are now empowered to conduct their own tests – which makes it difficult for the agency to keep up with the latest information.
"We no longer report the number of PUIs examined or patients who tested negative," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. “As more and more tests are performed in states, these numbers are not representative of the tests that are carried out at the national level. States report results quickly and evenly – States report results quickly and in the event of a discrepancy between the CDC and state case numbers, the state case numbers should always be considered more current. "
Mistakes have been made
Faulty test kits and internal subdivisions of how to respond to the spread of the virus in the U.S. hampered early efforts, according to several reports, to get an accurate picture of how fast the virus was moving through the population.
"They just lost time that they can't make up for. They can't get back six weeks of blindness," said Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and an Obama administration administrator who participated in the government's response the spread of the Ebola virus has been involved, according to the Washington Post, "To the extent that someone is to blame here, the blame is on poor, messy management of the White House and failure to recognize the big picture."
There is a world where a coordinated U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak that the Chinese government first reported to the World Health Organization in late December would have been led by the National Security Council's global health security team.The group was led in 2018 by then National Security Advisor John Bolton disbanded.
In this world, the United States could have accelerated the production and purchase of test kits, deployed facilities to communities that were at higher risk with the necessary equipment, and granted emergency permits so that public bodies could conduct tests without formal approval. In this world, the CDC should not have strictly restricted who could be tested for the virus, since it would not have to limit the number of tests it could perform to the most pressing – or most obvious – cases.
As reported in both the Washington Post and The New York Times, a series of bad decisions, slow responses, and technological failures have limited the government's ability to respond effectively to the threat.
The problems appear to be threefold: the disease control centers have not moved quickly enough to produce test kits on a large scale (either due to lack of funding or political will) and they have other institutions that would have worked on them can develop test options – and due to the limited availability of tests, the CDC rationed how many tests were carried out. These problems were exacerbated by the CDC's first publication of incorrect tests in early February.
Former US Food and Drug Administration official Scott Gottlieb In early February, he wrote on Twitter: "Since the CDC and FDA have not authorized any public health or hospital laboratories to perform the tests, #CDC is currently the only place where this can be done." The screening must therefore be rationed. Our ability to determine a secondary spread among people who are not directly associated with travel to China is severely limited. "
Since the CDC and FDA have not authorized public health or hospital laboratories to perform the tests, #CDC is currently the only place to do this. The screening must therefore be rationed. Our ability to determine a secondary spread among people who are not directly connected to travel to China is severely limited.
– Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD), February 2, 2020
There are many reasons to run test kits through the CDC and the state laboratories associated with the center. Mainly, tests developed and distributed by the CDC can be carried out free of charge in public health laboratories, while company laboratories and private health facilities can charge fees for the tests they develop.
(There was already a story about a Florida man who got stuck with a $ 3,000 bill because he chose to be tested for the corona virus on his return from a trip to China.)
However, the inability of the CDC and federal health authorities to respond quickly enough soon became apparent in February.
According to a New York Times report, a system for persecuting travelers returning from China was discontinued when federal officials instructed state authorities to track their movements. Meanwhile, Department of Health and Human Services director Alex Azar estimated that the United States needed at least 300 million respirators for healthcare workers – the national emergency supply was only 12 million, and many of them had expired. according to the Times.
In the meantime, the CDC's coronavirus test had a faulty component that led to inaccurate tests, which further restricted the test effort. And the restrictions imposed on who could get the tests have meant that there is still no precise picture of how widespread the disease has spread.
As of Friday, a nurse in a California hospital was denied access to the coronavirus test.
“I am currently in quarantine after looking after a patient who has tested positive. I'm waiting for the federal government's permission to have my tests approved even if my doctor and the county medical officer ordered the test, ”the nurse said in a published statement. "The national CDC would not initiate the test. They said they wouldn't test me because if I were to wear the recommended protective gear I wouldn't have the corona virus … Later they called back and now it's a problem with something called an identification number. They claim they prioritize running samples based on the severity of the disease and there are only so many that can be spent every day. So I have to wait in line for the results. This is not a ticket machine at a delicatessen counter, but an emergency for public health. I am appalled by the bureaucracy that prevents nurses from being tested. Delaying this test threatens the entire community. "
"When the CDC test was delayed and cases occurred outside of China, there should have been a faster response to get diagnostic tests started," said Melissa Miller, director of the Clinical Molecular Microbiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill School of Medicine said the Washington Post.
"We have an epidemic underway here in the US"
According to health experts, the federal government is now facing an epidemic, and the question now is how it can help states and municipalities respond.
"We have an epidemic underway here in the United States," said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, in an interview about Face the Nation.
Gottlieb, who recently returned to his position as managing partner at venture capital company NEA, has overseen the government's response from afar and it has been rumored that he is a candidate for the position of "Coronavirus Tsar" who oversees the government's response to the outbreak.
“We have to implement comprehensive mitigation strategies. The next two weeks will really change the complexion in this country. We'll get through this, but it's going to be a tough time. We look at two months that are probably difficult, ”said Gottlieb. “To give you a basis for comparison, Italy had nine cases two weeks ago. 95% of all cases were diagnosed in the last 10 days. In South Korea, 85 percent of all cases have been diagnosed in the last 10 days. We are entering this phase of rapid acceleration. And the sooner we can take stringent containment measures in places where outbreaks like Seattle occur, the smaller the scale of the epidemic here. "
Part of the damage limitation is to keep track of the spread of the disease, and Gottlieb has encouraged the FDA to act quickly to allow new tests to run for weeks. The Gates Foundation and private companies are already rushing to launch a home-based coronavirus test kit – and ways to share the test results with appropriate government agencies.
But testing alone is not enough, says Gottlieb. The US must "close companies, close large gatherings, close theaters, cancel events," said Gottlieb.
Companies have started to cancel large conferences and events, and universities like Stanford are turning to distance learning for the rest of their winter semester. No city or state has yet taken such drastic measures as Italy, which closed the entire northern region of the country at the weekend to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"I think we need to think about how we can encourage people in these cities that are going to be in trouble, as well as the towns themselves, to incentivize them to do so."
His recommendations are in line with the recent political proposals from the International Monetary Fund. These are all steps the US government could take if it chooses to proactively respond to the spread of the virus.
Indeed, the $ 8 billion coronavirus response package approved by Congress last week is instrumental in addressing the IMF's first proposal to invest in virus prevention, detection, control, treatment, and containment .
It is equally important, according to the IMF, to provide cash flow relief to the most affected people and companies – either in the form of wage subsidies, accelerated and expanded unemployment benefits, or tax benefits for companies affected by the virus outbreak.
"We will receive a very large rescue package for companies, individuals, cities and states affected," said Gottlieb. "We are better off doing it in advance and helping them do the right things than doing it in the backend after we had a very big epidemic."
Meanwhile, the US leadership at the highest level insists that there is no need to worry.
We have a perfectly coordinated and well-coordinated plan for our attack on CoronaVirus in the White House. We moved VERY early to close borders on certain areas, which was a gift from God. V.P. does a great job. The Fake News Media do everything they can to make us look bad. Sad!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), March 8, 2020