Why the Hell Don’t We Have Enough Damned COVID-19 Tests After 8 Months of the Pandemic?
The COVID-19 testing situation in the United States after eight months of the pandemic is déjà vu all over again. As cases surge, Americans around the country are once more lining up for hours in the hope of getting a virus test and then waiting for days for the results. Despite the fact that number of COVID-19 tests has recently been hovering around 1.5 million per day, that’s not nearly enough.
Why? Among other reasons, because the test positivity rate is now 10 percent, which is more than double the rate back in October. The percent positive rate “is a critical measure,” two researchers at Johns Hopkins University explain, “because it gives us an indication how widespread infection is in the area where the testing is occurring—and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission.”
It didn’t have to be this way.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were understandably few tests available for detecting coronavirus infections. But the federal government made the situation much worse by screwing up the development and deployment of testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention botched its own COVID-19 test while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blocked the development of alternatives by private companies and universities. Months later, the United States still does not have enough tests.
The good news is that the FDA has since approved more than a couple hundred COVID-19 tests. But these tests are not available on the scale needed to stem the tide of infections by enabling Americans to test themselves, warn friends and family if they test positive, and then voluntarily isolate themselves to prevent the further transmission of the disease.
President Donald Trump and his administration deserve credit for launching Operation Warp Speed, which appears just months later to be delivering on its promise to provide safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also launched a Rapid Acceleration o
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