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‘A perfect storm of failures’: 3 ways the US government bungled its coronavirus response in the first crucial weeks

The United States government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic in the past few weeks has been plagued by delayed testing kits and a government slow response in asking people to isolate themselves from one another.

The most damaging part of the government response may have been from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which bungled several early attempts to contain the pandemic.

CDC officials made three separate, broad errors to ramp up its pandemic response, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, which cites interviews with health officials and others.

The CDC failed to develop adequate test kits for the coronavirus, retracting many of them even after they had already been sent to testing labs, according to the Journal.Health providers and state authorities implored the CDC, which is the government’s top public-health agency, to expand testing capabilities. Those requests were also ignored, according to the Journal.Health authorities did not work closely with the private sector to guarantee the supply of medical items like chemical compounds and nasal swabs, the Journal reported.

Together, the failures have severely impeded the containment of the virus. There are 10,755 cases nationwide, including 154 deaths, at the time of writing — and infections are expected to keep surging.

“This was kind of a perfect storm of three separate failures,” Tom Frieden, director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told the Wall Street Journal.

President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting about the coronavirus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Friday, March 6, 2020 in Atlanta.

Associated Press/Alex Brandon

This “perfect storm” has hindered the government’s containment efforts. According to the CDC, 32,000 people have been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The COVID Tracking Project, an independent tracker, estimates that 79,000 people have been tested.

Still, that figure lags far behind other countries that are in the throes of the pandemic. South Korea, for example, is testing 20,000 each day.

“If we would have had a true understanding of the extent of disease several weeks ago, implementation of social-distancing measures could have prevented the escalation of the disease,” Dr. Neil Fishman, a disease expert and the chief medical officer at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, told the Wall Street Journal.

Read the full Wall Street Journal report here.