The US now has more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world. But why? The virus has taken hold at an alarming speed, outpacing other nations and leading to questions over its healthcare system, economy, capacity for state intervention and policy priorities. Is its spread symptomatic of other weaknesses?
Poor public health responseShow moreShow less
The bodies responsible for safeguarding public health and disease control, responded poorly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took three weeks longer than expected to deliver testing kits to laboratories for approval. This delay was a disaster.
The US took so long to act because it was unable to roll out workable testing kits. This responsibility fell to the CDC. Their initial tests did not work, leading to a second round of procurement and development.
Without tests, the virus rapidly spread undetected. So that by the time they were ready, the damage had already been done.
Critically, this also meant that health bodies were unable to detect the pathways through which the virus was spreading. Typically, as in China and Singapore, effective prevention in such cases relies on viral tracing. In turn, this allows authorities to isolate geographical areas where there may be large clusters of cases, before they show.
None of these could take place because of the CDC.
The CDC was slow to provide laboratories with testing kits, but the critical part of this operational failure is in what it has revealed.
As Robert P. Baird writes in the New Yorker, 'the cascading effects that [this] had on the country’s covid-19 preparations suggest a much larger problem with the way the United States has structured its pandemic response.
That problem was exacerbated by a President who has simultaneously underplayed the severity of the outbreak and overpromised the means available to fight it.'.
[P1] The coronavirus would have been slowed with widely available testing
[P2] The CDC is in charge of getting the tests to the laboratories
[P3] The CDC took three weeks longer than expected to deliver the tests
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] The White House did not instruct the CDC to expedite tests