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Despite what Dear Leader says, it's really hard to get a coronavirus test

Amy Proal is a microbiologist who has had what could be Covid-19 symptoms since Feb. 23 - two days after her boyfriend developed the same symptoms. She writes about how hard, almost impossible, actually, it is to get tested for the virus:

We are in Boston, near Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). We have not been able to get tested for COVID19 at MGH unless we are apparently in critical condition (ICU). Also I have a history of responding poorly to viral infections which is not making the situation easier. ...

Today my boyfriend called his internist and said has the COVID19 symptoms. After a phone screen they told him to come in to the office. He went there wearing no mask because we don’t have one.

They gave him a mask and after long periods sitting in the waiting room w/ other patients coughing who also think they have COVID19 he was finally told he can’t be tested because he has not been in direct contact with someone who has COVID19.

Instead of going directly home, they gave him a script for an inhaler and told him to go to CVS. The situation is ridiculous. Why did his internist’s office have someone with COVID19 symptoms come in, not test him, and then send him to a crowded pharmacy? I am very angry.

She adds she's not angry at Mass. General:

Lastly I should clarify this is not the fault of infectious disease MDs or others at MGH (several of whom I work with directly on research projects and are amazing!) It is because MGH doesn't have the testing capacity they need yet thanks to the federal government.

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Comments

I think all the tests are currently sent to the state lab still and then confirmed at the CDC. The state lab has declined even more convincing cases (think travel from one of those regions) but with another current viral infection because there's less reported coinfection with covid-19.

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CDC didn't have to create their own test. Other countries have managed to test orders of magnitude more people. WHO offered us the test and was turned down.

This lack of testing capacity is catastrophic. Cases are being missed and are therefore out in the community infecting others, including the elderly and others vulnerable to severe or fatal illness. Our government has bungled this really badly.

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Fixed: Trump’s “government” (or, lack thereof of competent professionals) has bungled this really badly.

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CDC didn't have to create their own test. Other countries have managed to test orders of magnitude more people. WHO offered us the test and was turned down.

I can't find anyplace saying that the CDC "turned down" a foreign test. The FDA has to approve diagnostic tests. Here's a discussion of the problems with the tests, written Feb. 29: The coronavirus diagnostic testing snafu, explained

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Yes, it did. Scientists in China published the genome of the virus, several countries created tests based off of it; including Germany. The WHO then started shipping that test to several countries. The CDC developed its own test (one that tested for a different gene), which took longer. That initial US test then failed.

It seems reasonable to develop your own test if you believe it to be potentially better in diagnosing the virus, but the criticism comes from not supplementing that test with more widely available tests. Especially after the CDC test ran into diagnostic and production issues. The bottleneck caused by having all test routed through the CDC compounded the issues.

Source:
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/06/coronavirus-testing-failure-123166

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https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/06/coronavirus-testing-failure-123166

Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration’s health agencies.

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Yes, Trump refused them.

We're being "Tami Flu'd" because Dear Leader wants to profit from it.

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Seattle researchers found the outbreak of COVID-19 there by ignoring CDC and FDA instructions to not COVID-test flu swabs they'd collected. They found one confirmed case fairly quickly. As the Federal agencies went back and forth about allowing the Seattle researchers to test more of the swabs, the doctors went ahead, and found there were many cases of the disease.

They held off for a couple of weeks, but on Feb. 25, Chu and her colleagues "began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval," the Times reports. They found a positive case pretty quickly, and after discussing the ethics, they told state health officials, who confirmed the next day that a teenager who hadn't traveled abroad had COVID-19 — and the virus had likely been spreading undetected throughout the Seattle area for weeks. Later that day, the CDC and FDA told Chu and her colleagues to stop testing, then partially relented, and the lab found several more cases. On Monday night, they were ordered to stop testing again.
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Huge failure how poorly this has been handled in the US. We should have been doing surveillance testing for weeks now - this would have provided more confidence in our government and less long term panic. South Korea was on top of testing right away, isolating cases and clusters, and their death rate is much better than Italy. They do have a younger population, but their proactive testing has saved lives and infections there seem to be slowing. In the US, we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg. All around me people seem either oblivious or are still repeating the "but what about the flu" line. This includes individuals who work in biological/health sciences and should know better, but shows the lack of information given by our officials and the media. As someone who has studied epidemiology I am furious about all of it and just hope my loved ones manage to avoid it. I am younger but have had pneumonia before and it was very serious and long-lasting.

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I'm a Partners Healthcare employee. Checking through my Epic terminal right now, we have - system wide - 9 test kits available. 9 kits, for the entire Partners system.

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https://xkcd.com/683/

The devil was in the scale up - the US is an enormously spread out and populous country compared to Singapore or South Korea.

https://www.xkcd.com/2278/

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Given that American's demographics haven't radically changed in the past three years, it would seem like a mistake to cut or curtail the work of the agency that exists to prepare for these sorts of predictable pandemics in a demographically diverse country such as the US.

But I'm just an average guy with a basic understanding of math and geography, not the President. So what do I know. /S

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on earth. Just ask him. Or one of his braniac supporters: they're all very stable geniuses who know better than those foolish "elites", what with their book-larnin' and advanced college degrees and decades of experience and all.

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He said that all the experts told him he has a "natural ability" and I totally believe him. There's no way he would be lying about something as serious as a public health crisis.

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This is what my President will be remembered for.

  • Cutting funding to the Center for Disease Control.
  • Disbanding the US Pandemic Response team.
  • Calling the Coronavirus a "Democratic Hoax" designed to make him look bad.
  • Turning down the World Health Organizations offer of a Coronavirus test.

And lots of bronzer.

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