In the U.S., we are grossly underprepared for COVID-19 (coronavirus), now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The federal government has failed to protect its citizens by not responding in a timely and adequate manner.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump stated, “The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.” There is no evidence for this claim. One of the reasons there is no evidence available? The Trump administration was quick to deny the seriousness of COVID-19 and slow to act on testing for the virus.
Blaming a continent does not take away from the fact that the Trump administration has acted in an incompetent way that will cost lives. Trump can’t gaslight a virus. While he can spin on various topics, he is outmatched by COVID-19. The Trump administration has ordered that any top-level meetings on COVID-19 are classified, which greatly restricts information available to the public, and causes a delay in government response. There is a restriction on federal health officials speaking openly to the public. When they do address the public, the emphasis on the severity of COVID-19 is in direct contradiction to the president’s statements. When he was asked about this discrepancy, the president responded that it was “fake news.”
Trump did not notify European leadership that he was going to ban flights for 30 days from Europe. He said, “ I didn’t want to take time and, you know, it takes a long time to make the individual calls…” One call would have sufficed in contacting European Union leadership. Representatives of the European Union stated, “the European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
We still have inadequate COVID-19 testing in the U.S. As of Monday, only a little over 4,000 people had been tested for the virus. Many locations are using already outdated criteria for even obtaining a test. People have been told that they can get tested only if they have symptoms, if they have traveled to particular countries, or have been in close contact with someone who has been to those countries. These criteria fail to take into account that we have reached community contagion. The virus is being spread from person to person locally, and many people are asymptomatic while still spreading the virus. If they were able to obtain a test, they would test positive and could self-quarantine. People with whom they have been in contact could be warned and also self-quarantine.
The federal government refused to use a valid World Health Organization test. Then on February 12th, the US Center for Disease Control admitted that their COVID-19 tests were faulty. On March 12th, California Governor Gavin Newsom stated that California received testing kits from the federal government that were missing components required for use. It was not until March 4th that the federal government permitted non-governmental scientific entities to create a COVID-19 test. We are sorely lacking in the number of tests available per capita compared to other countries.
Medical personnel have beared the brunt of angry and frightened people who aren’t able to get tested. A Seattle nursing home is unable to test 65 workers with COVID-19 symptoms due to a lack of kits. COVID-19 killed at least 13 patients at the facility. A nurse in California who helped treat a patient with coronavirus and subsequently has symptoms of COVID-19 was allegedly denied a test by the CDC. The CDC reportedly said that if the nurse was wearing protective measures, she could not have the virus. The CDC then reportedly contacted her and put her in a queue to be tested, as they only have so many tests they can give out per day. This is not acceptable.
John Campbell PhD stated, “People who would have survived with medical care are going to die.” If you think you aren’t vulnerable to COVID-19 and falsely believe it’s a hoax, this isn’t about you. This is about medical personnel and hospitals being so overwhelmed that they have to triage treatment not by severity of illness, but due to lack of resources by who is most likely to survive. Medical personnel in Italy are already forced to make such decisions.
What do we do now? A copay has been waived for COVID-19 tests, but that waiver does not include copays associated with administering the test or for treatment. Self-insured plans can opt out of waiving copays. Testing for COVID-19 and the associated codes that are billed, including the code for a medical encounter (office visit), should be free of copays, and free to those that are uninsured.
We should be offering drive-through COVID-19 tests, as has been established by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. We should also be encouraging the use of telehealth. We need a way to get people the medical treatment they need without exposing them to others.
While cancelling large-scale events is helpful, we most a tighter restriction than just asking for a postponement of gatherings of 250 people or more, as was requested by the governors of Illinois and California. We need to find a competent way to prepare for the next pandemic. We need a leader that acknowledges the seriousness of a pandemic; understands the panic of citizens and works to calm that panic instead of stoking it; works with other countries to have cohesive guidelines and restrictions; emphasizes the importance of citizens working together to enforce social distance; and takes responsibility for missteps. Above all, the U.S. needs a leader that believes in the scientific community and allows them to speak freely.
- Public health expert warns virus not going away – KSAT San Antonio
- Tesla asks employees to resume production at Fremont car plant despite coronavirus health orders – CNBC
- Major health groups and charities urge Trump to reverse World Health Organization funding decision – CNN
- Public health officials push back on May opening | TheHill – The Hill
- Analysis | The Health 202: Los Angeles is racing to discover the true coronavirus infection rate – The Washington Post
- Some Public Health Officials Not Releasing Coronavirus Hospitalizations : Shots – Health News – NPR
- Covid-19 health-care crisis could drive new developments in robotics, editorial says – The Washington Post
- Lost Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are Your Options – The Motley Fool
- El Paso virus cases jump to 35 as health leaders warn of increased risk of ‘community spread’ – KVIA El Paso