March 17th •
The slow distribution of test kits to check for coronavirus cases has hampered the United States government effort to actively deal with the outbreak. This has prevented health officials from taking the right steps to stop the virus from spreading.
Trump has come under intense criticism from lawmakers, medical experts and public health officials for failing to address the issue of testing kits, which has been an hindrance in the country’s response against the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an official at the National Institute of Health, recently admitted that the government is failing as there are no widespread testing kits in the United States. Experts say testing failure due to the lack of sufficient kits poses a serious risk as there is no way of telling how the pandemic has spread.
The rollout of free testing kits has been unacceptably slow and this prevents health experts to take practical steps to deal with the virus.
“It’s been completely, unacceptably slow,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. Put simply, most health officials are still in the dark due to the unavailability of free testing kits.
Amid the criticism and pressure from the government, President Trump announced new steps aimed at providing more test kits, by relying on vital partnership with private organizations. The Trump administration has approved test kits from a drug company known as Roche, and believe they can provide massive testing kits soon.
Trump claimed that he should not be held responsible for the slow distribution of test kits that have caused massive anxiety among American citizens. He said that the government had to change specifications from time to time, and that more test kits would be made available quickly. Without providing a specific timeline, Trump assured American citizens that free test kits would be made available soon.
And due to testing failures, it is difficult to tell exactly the number of people who have the virus. The Ohio health department said that more than 50,000 people in the United State might potentially have the virus. The unavailability of testing kits has hindered the efforts of minimizing spread of the virus.
Since it’s difficult to identify who has been infected, it has been a challenge to tackle the virus head on. Although the United States has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the government’s inability to provide enough test kits is daunting.
Experts believe the virus has spread to the extent that drastic measures like banning gatherings is needed to prevent it from spreading and avoiding overwhelming hospitals. An investigation done by the guardian has shown that more than 4,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the U.S.
However, there are some signs that the situation is slowly improving. Since the Roche test was approved by the government, Trump said that more labs would be commissioned to test the virus. The state of New York opened a drive-thru free testing center to prevent a major outbreak. Colorado also opened the first testing center this week.
Experts, however, are puzzled by the government pronouncements that it indeed has provided enough testing kits but this doesn’t seem to match the current situation on the ground, as more people cannot get easy access to free testing.
While Trump initially downplayed the potential of an outbreak, he declared the virus a national emergency. And though he said that the government has been productive in setting up testing centers, health officials on the ground claim that this is far from the truth. Trump said that anybody who wants to get tested will be tested, but this isn’t true.
Health experts have pointed to various missteps that have overwhelmingly delayed testing. For one, the U.S. government decided that it was in their best interest to develop their own tests instead of relying on the one that has been approved worldwide by the WHO. Unfortunately, most of the initial tests that were developed in the US weren’t effective.
Although the CDH followed strict criteria during testing, by requesting recent travel information for anyone infected by the virus, the FDA didn’t make provisions to make samples available to private labs for testing.
While plenty of tests have been done, the connection between patients and doctors, and hospitals to these lab tests has not been smooth as expected. But the collective effort of the government and the private sector has made the progress better day by day. However, health experts have warned that more serious action needs to be taken to prevent the virus from spreading.
After declaring the pandemic a national emergency, Trump said that the government would spend up to $50 billion to combat the virus. He further added that he will also get tested when the right measures have been put in place.
He said that anyone who needs to get tested should be able to get tested quickly, safely and conveniently. Thus far, the majority of coronavirus cases have been reported in Washington State, and 37 deaths have been recorded. Health officials now claim that more people could be infected and tests will help show the extent.
Some patients have said that they were suffering from common symptoms related to coronavirus but when they asked to be tested, they were turned away.
The congressional committee recently expressed their disappointments that the U.S healthcare system didn’t have the capacity to meet the country’s overwhelming needs. While the idea is that anyone can get tested easily, as most countries are dealing with the virus, Trump’s government is not yet ready for that.
Essentially, the main issue is not the unavailability of testing kits per se, but the limited laboratories and health centers authorized to provide these tests. According to the food and drug administration body, more private developers have requested for assistance with development of tests and a seamless authorization process. In fact, at least 30 private laboratories are currently developing their own tests.
There are a variety of products in production that play an essential role in slowing down the outbreak, and many private organizations are working tirelessly to make these tests available to the public.
In addition to making more testing centers available, Trump said that the $50 billion budget allotted to the pandemic would help various localities and states to fight the virus. The declaration would make provisions available for health officials to effectively combat the virus, this preventing further outbreak.
The president also urged all states to create emergency operation facilities immediately and requested all hospitals to activate their preparedness plan to deal with the virus. Moreover, Trump said that the government would set up more drive-thru centers in every city. Health officials in multiple states have set up drive-thru centers, including Colorado. However, residents will have to provide a doctor’s note to get tested.
For example, Colorado has a wait time of 3-4 hours before you can get tested by the Department of Health. But testing was later postponed due to inclement weather and increased number of people looking to get tested. And though you can get tested for free at any local health center, you need to make an appointment.
This will help health officials to prioritize who is qualified to get tested because most states currently don’t have the capacity to test everyone. New York state also opened a testing facility and have created a containment zone where more than 50 cases are confirmed every week.
Unfortunately, the past few days have been almost intolerable for most Americans who now feel like they are living in uncharted territory. Public gatherings have been banned, and dozens of university and inter college games have been indefinitely suspended. Sport leagues and major entertainment centers – including Disney World and Broadway have all halted their activities.
Screening is quite straightforward and the WHO has emphasized that all health centers should have a thermometer gun. This device will assist in screening and will help in symptom and temperature check. But more importantly, health officials should also interview all the people who have tested positive for the virus, as this will reduce more outbreaks. On the other hand, symptomatic travelers need to be given proper testing and further medical examination. All confirmed cases should be directly placed in isolation for treatment.
In addition to screening, health officials need to collect information about the patient’s recent whereabouts and trace all their contacts. Disease awareness is also important to encourage the public to practice proper hygiene to protect themselves from getting infected.
Health officials in the United States now target to test anyone that has travelled to a country where there is an outbreak, as well as anyone who has chronic flu-like symptoms. As mentioned earlier, anyone with an authorization from a physician can get tested for coronavirus – but that means they first have to get access to a test center. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has reduced regulatory roadblocks to allow for creation of more testing labs.