Perhaps the No. 1 question currently about the pandemic: Why is the United States lagging so far behind other industrialized nations in coronavirus testing, playing a key role in allowing the virus to take hold in 49 states and undermining any possibilities for containment? The answer, according to BuzzFlash, rests with the White House -- and Trump last Friday said private companies, such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, will play leading roles in testing going forward. That, of course, will come after the virus already has reached crisis proportions. From the BuzzFlash report:
After it was widely reported that Tom Hanks and his wife were able to simply walk into a clinic in Australia with the symptoms of a common cold and instantly get a coronavirus test – which was positive – Americans are beginning to ask out loud, “Why can’t we get tested?“ According to President Obama‘s Ebola Czar (on Rachel Maddow‘s show), Ron Klain, Trump “privatized“ the testing here in the United States. Instead of taking the World Health Organization (WHO) test kits which are cheap and widely available all over the planet, and having them distributed across the country back in December, or January, or February when we knew this disease was spreading in the United States, Klain said that Trump has outsourced the testing to two big American companies, Quest and Labcorp. Trump’s head of HHS, Alex Azar, is the guy who doubled the price of insulin when he was CEO of Eli Lily company. Do he and Trump owns stock in these testing companies? Why are we refusing to accept the WHO test that the entire rest of the world is using? What the hell is going on here?
The private companies face tall orders because of the late start forced on them by the Trump administration, according to a report at Reuters:
The entry of commercial lab companies Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings and Quest Diagnostics Inc to help identify cases of the new coronavirus does not seem to be easing the burden of testing in the United States.
Boosting testing capacity is crucial to assessing the scope of the U.S. outbreak and identifying where it is spreading most rapidly. There are currently more than 1,300 documented cases of coronavirus in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, but experts say the actual number may be much higher because of the scarcity of diagnostic tests. There have been at least 38 documented deaths so far.
Last Friday (3/6), President Donald Trump said that “anyone who wants a test, gets a test.” Nearly a week later, the ramp up appears much slower due to regulatory hurdles, as well as logistical and technical challenges, according to healthcare providers, public health officials and test makers.
LabCorp and Quest said they now have the capacity to conduct thousands of tests per day and that they have already begun testing individuals for the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19. But patients, doctors and government officials say there is still a shortage.
In a scathing report at The Atlantic, conservative writer David Frum says blame for severity of the outbreaks rests squarely with the White House:
At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse?
Presidents are not all-powerful, especially not in the case of pandemic disease. There are limits to what they can do, for good or ill. But within those limits, at every juncture, Trump’s actions have ensured the worst possible outcomes. The worst outcome for public health. The worst outcome for the American economy. The worst outcome for American global leadership. . . .
The financial markets have plunged into a 2008-style crash, auguring a recession, perhaps a severe one. The Trump administration has had almost two months to think about this crisis. It has trial-ballooned some ideas. But, of course, fiscal policy would require assent from the House of Representatives. Trump is still pouting at Speaker Nancy Pelosi. So—aside from some preposterously unconvincing happy talk about the economy—again: nothing.
With that, Frum was just getting warmed up. He then really lit into the Trump administration:
More people will get sick because of his presidency than if somebody else were in charge. More people will suffer the financial hardship of sickness because of his presidency than if somebody else were in charge. The medical crisis will arrive faster and last longer than if somebody else were in charge. So, too, the economic crisis. More people will lose their jobs than if somebody else were in charge. More businesses will be pushed into bankruptcy than if somebody else were in charge. More savers will lose more savings than if somebody else were in charge. The damage to America’s global leadership will be greater than if somebody else were in charge.
But hey, at least Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp will get to pad their bottom lines.