As America effectively shuts down, failures over coronavirus testing kits and President Donald Trump’s disastrous bid to calm the markets are coming to symbolize a federal government that increasingly seems outmatched by the global pandemic.
Shuttered sports leagues, darkened Broadway theaters, mass school closures, packed grocery stores, shrinking 401(k)s amid a stock market meltdown, and emptying cities hint at social disruption perhaps not seen since World War II.
How bad is the outbreak?
The administration’s public health experts have no idea how bad the US coronavirus outbreak will get, since bottlenecks in lab testing and faults with diagnosis kits mean they can’t know how many infections there really are.
“We are flying blind,” warned Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, one of many lawmakers of both parties who emerged furious from a Capitol Hill briefing Thursday with government officials about the situation.
A source inside the meeting told CNN that lawmakers were told that only 11,000 tests had been conducted, prompting many to ask why South Korea can manage to test 10,000 in a single day.
Contradictions on testing
The administration has been boasting for several weeks that it is sending millions of testing kits to states and local authorities. But those officials say long waits for kits and issues with the reagent used in diagnosis mean they are able to test only the most high-risk patients. They are left in the dark about the true extent of the coronavirus’ spread through the community.
But after his European travel ban announced in an Oval Office address on Wednesday night and mix-ups in his speech over how much virus treatment will cost, Trump stuck to happy talk and falsehoods.”Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
The President’s comments contradicted his own government’s head of infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who admitted on Thursday that protocols under which doctors request tests for patients were not working.
“The system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now,” Fauci said. “It is a failing. Let’s admit it.”