CDC errors caused crucial delays in the war on the Covid-19 coronavirus
03/09/2020 / By Tracey Watson / Comments
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CDC errors caused crucial delays in the war on the Covid-19 coronavirus

It is increasingly looking like the United States is not going to be a coronavirus success story. And a large part of the blame for that rests with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An arrogant insistence on breaking from the prescribed testing protocols of the World Health Organization and instead developing a supposedly more sophisticated test has resulted in massive delays in finding those who are infected.

The result? Coronavirus Covid-19 is spreading through American communities like an Australian bush fire.

Why early testing is so important

According to Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the basis of healthcare in an outbreak type situation is to have a true understanding of exactly how many people have been affected. And, he adds, “If you don’t look, you won’t find cases.”

In other words, the right diagnostic testing, in sufficient volume to meet the need, is the basis for determining the real facts on the ground so as to contain the disease and provide the best possible treatment for affected patients.

The countries around the world which are best coping with this virus are those that have been able to quickly quarantine patients and determine through diagnostic testing exactly who else might be affected.

The first mistake: Faulty test kits

As reported by ProPublica, when the coronavirus was first detected in January, the CDC lost valuable time in starting to test American citizens because it insisted on creating its own diagnostic test which would supposedly detect not just the novel coronavirus but several other viruses, too – though why this would be necessary is anybody’s guess.

Unfortunately, the CDC’s supposedly superior test resulted in false positives and could not be used. This meant that right at the beginning of the outbreak, when surveillance testing should have been conducted in hotspot areas, there were no test kits available.

“We’re weeks behind because we had this problem,” Scott Becker, chief executive officer of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told ProPublica. “We’re usually up-front and center and ready.”

The CDC has now granted permission for laboratories to ignore the potentially false results of the tests – those related to other viruses, not Covid-19 – but many believe the tests are still unreliable.

In New York, for example, both city and state laboratories have reported false positives even when meticulously following the CDC’s newest testing directions.

City Department of Health spokeswoman Stephanie Buhle says the kits have “demonstrated performance issues and cannot be relied upon to provide an accurate result.”

On 28 February, ProPublica reported:

It remains to be seen what effect the delay in producing a working test will have on the health of Americans. If the United States dodges the rapidly spreading outbreaks now seen in Iran and South Korea, the impact will be negligible. But if it emerges that the disease is already circulating undetected in communities across the country, health officials will have missed a valuable chance to lessen the harm.

A week later, Covid-19 is now “circulating undetected in communities across the country,” and that missed opportunity is proving to be extremely costly. (Related: Pandemic projection model shows 2.16 million deaths in USA by July 4th if nothing done to halt nearly all domestic travel.)

The second blunder: Declaring a public health emergency

By declaring the virus a public health emergency, the CDC triggered a domino-effect of federal rules that mean that local hospitals cannot simply test a potentially infected patient and accept the result. Instead, all test results must be validated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

ProPublica reported:

So now, hospitals must validate their tests with the FDA — even if they copied the CDC protocol exactly. Hospital lab directors say the FDA validation process is onerous and is wasting precious time when they could be testing in their local communities.

Clearly, U.S. government authorities including the CDC and FDA have made one blunder after the other in dealing with the novel coronavirus. And American citizens will have to pay the price for those critical mistakes.

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