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Two months after the Chinese coronavirus genome went online, allowing rapid development of detection tests, the United States is showing a huge delay in its ability to test. The problem becomes a major national scandal.

Two months. Two months lost. On January 11, Chinese scientists released the coronavirus genome online. A week later, Berlin virologists produced the first diagnostic test. But this Thursday, March 12, in New York as in the rest of the United States, the reality remains the same: it is always difficult, if not impossible, to be tested.


Earlier this week, nearly 5,000 Americans had been tested, according to an estimate by "The Atlantic" , against 15,000 people per day in South Korea. In New York, one of the main sources of infection, less than 2,000 people were able to access the tests, reports the "New York Times" , while the governor, Andrew Cuomo, set a target of 1 000 tests a day: “We cannot wait any longer, this only exacerbates the problem. "
How could one of the most prosperous countries on the planet have allowed such a scandal to develop? By a mixture of nationalism, bureaucracy and ostrich politics.

Defective tests

At the end of February, the World Health Organization (WHO) had already sent tests to sixty countries ... but not to the United States. Despite multiple requests from parliamentarians, it is still unclear who made the decision to refuse aid from WHO, preferring to develop tests "made in the USA" .
On January 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal health agency that coordinates the response, released public details of the American test. A week later, a national emergency health alert was declared, making it possible to speed up the development of these tests but centralizing operations around the CDC, preventing de facto hospital labs from developing their own tests quickly.

Problematic centralization: shortly before mid-February, the CDC realizes that its tests are faulty. The tile ! But why, in this case, not to look abroad? Confidence of an official at the Washington Post  : it would have taken too long to get the green light from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency supervising the drugs…
There is another, more political, explanation: in mid-February, the speech was still about closing the borders and "containing" a virus from outside. In this logic, the only people to be tested are foreigners from countries at risk - in Seattle, an American from Wuhan will even be refused to be tested. Few tests performed, so few needs… CQFD!
The impasse quickly becomes apparent. On February 13, Secretary of Health Alex Azar announced to Congress the use of increased surveillance in 5 pilot cities to see "if there is a wider contagion than that which we have been able to detect up to now " . But the implementation of the plan is delayed due to the lack of available tests.

A catastrophic lost time

On February 29, more than six weeks after the publication of the genome by the Chinese, the FDA finally announced a new device facilitating the development of tests by hospital laboratories. And now states can do their own tests, the bottlenecks should start to go away. A clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, has even developed a test whose results can be known within eight hours, compared to several days before. It was developed in just nine days, but had to wait for the CDC's green light on March 2

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