Lion of the Blogosphere

The failure to test

Totally agree with everything in this article by William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Hint: You can get past the Washington Post paywall by disabling Javacript. Here’s some of it:

The battle to keep covid-19 from becoming established in the United States is probably over without a single shot being fired. We were not outwitted, outpaced or outflanked. We knew what was coming. We just twiddled our thumbs as the coronavirus waltzed in.

The first thing officials need when responding to an infectious disease is a way to test for it — a way to tell who has it and who is at risk. Dozens of such test procedures have been produced in the scant weeks since covid-19 announced itself to the world by shutting down Wuhan, China, a city the size of New York. Public health agencies around the globe have generated huge amounts of data on how well these tests work and have rolled them out on a massive scale. South Korea alone has tested more than 100,000 of its citizens.

But the United States has lagged far behind the rest of the world in testing for the new coronavirus. As a result, outbreaks here are likely to be more numerous and more difficult to control than they would have been otherwise. I research infectious disease and how to fight it, so I know how important it is to detect outbreaks early. The covid-19 outbreak is the largest acute infectious-disease emergency most of us have experienced. And we may have let it go undetected here for too long.

For countries that are lucky enough so far to have been spared large covid-19 outbreaks, the way to handle the virus is simple: Strangle it at birth. If you detect it while there are still just a handful of cases, it is comparatively easy to chase down the contacts of the people who have it, isolate them quickly and halt transmission. If that fails, stopping transmission might take measures like the draconian restrictions imposed in China, which — while apparently successful — we should wish to avoid.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 6, 2020 at 3:20 PM

9 Responses

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  1. You’re a moron if you don’t notice the weaseling right in the opening sentence. Lots of built-in deniability there.

    Marty

    March 6, 2020 at 3:39 PM

  2. Israel was very aggressive with testing and isolation but still it spreading, not that anybody are dying or anything because it is not that dangerous. Even my old mom who was worried in the beginning relaxed a bit now that it actually more spread and people can see that it is not the end of the world.

    Hashed

    March 6, 2020 at 3:44 PM

  3. Speaking from WA state, it was absolutely criminal that we allowed the carrier to fly in from Wuhan that started it all. People said at the time that it would be dumb to prevent travel (a congresswoman from here was pissed that we stopped Iranians at the border during whatever that last crisis was). We could have prevented the whole thing, at least here.

    Joe

    March 6, 2020 at 3:50 PM

    • Was that before the travel ban on flights from China?

      Frau Katze

      March 6, 2020 at 4:35 PM

      • It must have been! They are saying the seed event and strain has been traced to the traveler from China, the first to test positive here.

        Joe

        March 6, 2020 at 5:57 PM

    • “The battle to keep covid-19 from becoming established in the United States is probably over without a single shot being fired. We were not outwitted, outpaced or outflanked. We knew what was coming. We just twiddled our thumbs as the coronavirus waltzed in.”

      Stopping unwanted things at our border is not who we are.

      Curle

      March 6, 2020 at 6:32 PM

  4. These sites need to drop the pay walls for articles on the coronavirus.

    Frau Katze

    March 6, 2020 at 4:37 PM

    • Seattle Times has.

      Joe

      March 6, 2020 at 5:57 PM

  5. I’m just hoping we have enough Diversity and Inclusion functionaries to handle this crisis.

    Curle

    March 6, 2020 at 7:13 PM


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