March 8, 2020

RESPONDING TO EPIDEMICS REQUIRES FLEXIBILITY. REGULATION TAKES AWAY FLEXIBILITY. A Self-Inflicted Crisis: Overregulation has played a dangerous role in America’s coronavirus outbreak.

It’s troubling that community spread in Washington State and other parts of the U.S.—possibly affecting hundreds to thousands of individuals—wasn’t detected sooner. Overregulation of diagnostic testing has played a major role in this delay. For weeks, the CDC operated the nation’s sole diagnostic laboratory for coronavirus, while testing in the rest of the world proceeded apace. Test protocols using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were publicly available shortly after Chinese researchers published (or described) the sequence of the virus in mid-January. The World Health Organization (WHO) used a freely available German procedure to create a test kit, shipping 250,000 tests to 159 laboratories worldwide. Since early February, the WHO has facilitated specimen transfer to referral laboratories.

In China, labs have tested thousands of patients each day. By February 23, the Chinese government had approved ten test kits, and production capacity reached 1.65 million tests per week. Meantime, South Korea has more than 500 testing sites and has screened over 100,000 people, reportedly testing 10,000 individuals per day and pioneering “drive-through” testing facilities. This enhanced testing capability is a key reason why the country has reported over 5,100 cases—the second-largest, outside China—including larger numbers of patients with mild illness, as reflected in a case fatality rate less than 1 percent. As of March 3, the U.K. had tested nearly 14,000 cases.

By contrast, the U.S. had performed a paltry 472 tests by March 2. Further, CDC testing criteria have precluded recognizing community spread because of requirements stipulating recent travel to China or exposure to an infected person. Adherence to these guidelines delayed testing in the first probable case of community transmission, in Northern California, by four days.

The CDC has not covered itself with glory here.

Related (From Ed): Jim Treacher sees the contradiction inherent in the socialism:

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