CDC Shows Further Incompetence By Lagging Other Countries in COVID-19 Testing

CDC has administered 1,600 COVID-19 tests, in contrast to South Korea's more than 100,000. To make up for this embarrassing shortfall, the CDC will ship 2.1 million tests by Monday.
Posted in: HeadlinesOp-ed
March 8, 2020 6:30 PM UTC
  • The Central for Disease Control (CDC) has administered less than 1,600 COVID-19 tests; in contrast, South Korea has administered over 100,000 tests.
  • The severe lack of testing may have given the coronavirus room to spread unchecked in the United States.
  • The government plans to ship out 2.1 million tests by Monday.

The United States ranks tenth in the world in terms of number of confirmed COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases. The country tallies 447 total cases and 19 deaths. If you’re a healthy American, these numbers may give you a sense of relief as 447 cases is a fraction for a country with a population of over 330 million.

I hate to be bearer of bad news. The total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is not because the virus is effectively contained. It is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not doing enough testing. You can’t have an outbreak if you don’t test suspected patients.

CDC’s Ineptitude May Ignite a Public Health Crisis in the U.S.

Testing is a country’s first line of defense against a pandemic. People who test positive are quarantined and isolated. Health agencies then list the contacts of the patients so that they can also be quarantined. These measures can effectively curb the spread of the virus, especially if they are strictly enforced in the early stages of a possible outbreak.

If a country fails to take advantage of this crucial window, there’s no telling how big of an outbreak it may face. That’s what the United States is dealing with right now, no thanks to the incompetence of the CDC.

According to latest reports, the United States has administered 1,583 COVID-19 tests since initial cases were identified in January. In contrast, South Korea tested over 100,000 people by Mar. 1. Italy and the United Kingdom tested 23,345 and 13,525, respectively, by the same day.

The CDC is surprisingly slow to react to the novel coronavirus. | Source: Twitter

So far, it’s not clear whether a particular policy or a specific person should be blamed for the lackadaisical roll out of test kits. Nevertheless, the CDC wasted precious time that could have been used to contain the virus.

I think that we could have probably controlled this, if we had effective testing,

Says Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen.

Unfortunately, the U.S. did not have that advantage. Now, the country may be looking at a public health crisis.

CDC Playing Catch-Up By Deploying 2.1 Million Test Kits

Possibly aware of its own lapses, the CDC will try to make up for lost time by distributing 2.1 million test kits by Monday to commercial laboratories. Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that 1.1 million test kits will be available by the end of the weekend. An additional 1 million test kits will be available by next week.

The incoming 2.1 million kits will be able to test around 850,000 people as the CDC requires two swabs for each patient.

By next week, I expect the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to soar as more people get tested. This will reveal the incompetence of the CDC as it failed to immediately identify and isolate suspected coronavirus cases and their contacts through testing.

South Korea had the advantage of mass testing in the early stages of the outbreak yet the country has a record of 7,313 cases. It won’t be surprising if the United States eclipses that figure in the coming weeks.

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Last modified: June 24, 2020 1:05 AM UTC

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Kiril Nikolaev @kirilnikk123

Kiril is a CFA Charterholder and financial professional with 6+ years of experience in financial writing, analysis and product ownership. He has a bachelor's degree with a specialty in finance and lives in Canada. Kiril’s current focus is on finance and cryptocurrencies. He also has his personal website, where he teaches people about the basics of investing. He owns Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.