As the novel coronavirus took root across America, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention sent states in the US tainted test kits in early February that were themselves seeded with the virus.
The contamination made the tests cryptic, and because testing is essential for containment efforts, it lost the country precious time to get ahead of the advancing pandemic.
But the CDC has been hazy about what went wrong with the tests, originally stating that the problem was in the manufacturing of one of the reagents which had led to failure.
Subsequent reporting inferred that the problem was a negative control, that is, a part of the test meant to be free of any trace of the coronavirus as a critical reference to validating that the test was working properly overall.
Now, according to investigation results, federal officials verified that poor laboratory practices at two of three CDC labs involved in the creation of the test led to contamination of the tests and their uninterpretable results.
Shortly after the problems became obvious in early February, the Food and Drug Administration sent Timothy Stenzel, chief of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health, to the CDC to investigate what was going wrong.
He discovered a lack of coordination and incompetence in commercial manufacturing. Problems that led to the contamination included researchers coming and going from the lab working on the test kits without changing their coats and researchers sharing lab space to both assemble test components and handle samples containing the coronavirus.
The CDC said in a statement that the agency did not manufacture its test consistent with its protocol. Although the CDC seemed hesitant to admit contamination was at the heart of the problem, and it was noted that in a separate statement the CDC seemed to admit such problems, saying the agency has since implemented enhanced quality control to address the problem and will be evaluating the issue moving forward.
After the CDC first sent its test kit to states in the US in early February, it took the agency about a month to fix the problem. By then, the virus had penetrated numerous communities unimpeded and any possibility that the US had at containing its spread had practically vanished.
By mid-March, many states applied mitigation attempts, such as social distancing, to attempt to blunt, rather than prevent the life-threatening, healthcare overwhelming impacts of COVID 19.
It was simply tragic, and all the time they were sitting there waiting. Here they were at one of the most crucial crossroads in public health history and the biggest tool in their toolbox was missing.
As of the morning of April 20, the US has confirmed that there have been more than 760,000 cases of COVID 19 and more than 40,700 deaths but the numbers are expected to be underestimates due to the slow and still insufficient amount of testing.
But goodness me, who would have believed that electing an intellectually inert fraud who went on to gut everything could get his hands on and refuses to take the blame in any way, shape, form or fashion would end badly?
And it’s such a disgrace this once revered agency could fail so spectacularly in the one time of real need and as much as I want to get on the blame train, this is one of the things that have no one to blame for but the researchers and lab techs for messing up procedures while manufacturing the test kits and allowing cross-contamination.
Perhaps if you were talking about funding, then it might be somewhat different but it wasn’t because of lack of manpower or equipment that caused this, it was human oversight and when in a few years when this pandemic is forgotten, the grand old party will use this failure as evidence that the CDC should be defunded.
However, these blunders cost them weeks of testing and this is genuinely unfortunate and hopefully, the CDC will learn from this and much less forgivable is the CDC and FDA’s stubbornness to allow other labs to test.
And if lab techs aren’t following their procedures, then it’s a breakdown of leadership and oversight and the failure on this scale isn’t only the result of a few lab techs being careless about their gloves, but I’m sure there will be lots of blame to go round.
The Trump administration has been attempting to decimate the CDC ever since it took charge, so I can envision a situation where the best and brightest, under those circumstances, jump ship, leaving them understaffed, demoralised and scarcely functional.
The administration has repeatedly and systematically destroyed important elements of the CDC and this was just begging for an epidemic to hit us and it was a perfect storm and absence of preparation.
This was a multi-element cock up and part of the blame was kingdom-growing because the CDC didn’t want anyone else’s tests to be available, they wanted the power that comes with being the single source.
Then they buried their technical screw up, misinformed about what was going wrong, and repeatedly gave bad estimates about when it was going to be fixed.
Only they had the information needed to diagnose the testing defect and with that knowledge, it was obvious that a contaminated negative control reagent was the most probable error.
Instead, they insisted that 24 of 26 external labs got it wrong, which by the way, disturbingly implies that the 2 good labs were either failing or altering the results.
People kept pointing out that Donald Trump was unsuccessful at actually gutting the CDC’s resources as he proposed each year but he was stifling staffing efforts on a huge scale and an agency under-staffed by hundreds of workers and given incompetent leadership is bound to stumble and fall and I don’t see how you can argue otherwise.
And it’s odd how one party is all about jacking up spending on national defence, yet the pandemic response is not part of that but Donald Trump never admits that he might have done something wrong, instead, he blames a fractured system that the US acquired years ago but they had time to fix.
Donald Trump stated: Leadership, whatever happens, you’re responsible and if it doesn’t happen, you’re still responsible, so therefore, he’s not prepared to take any blame at all.
Everybody should be extremely clear on where he stands now because his digits are unmistakably pointing at you and there’s a broad fertile land between ‘There shall be only one source of testing’ to ‘Hey, it’s cool. Do whatever you want because we’re not going to take any position on any test that anyone comes up with’.
And evidently, the President’s authority is total but you don’t get to claim total authority and then deny accountability but this is what happens when you gut the 3 letter agencies.
Not only is the very top inefficient, but many of the other authorities or technocrats then see the writing on the wall and start to bail. This is why 4 more years of Donald Trump will be fatal to the US because executive agencies are being sabotaged from within and you can’t undo 8 straight years of institutional teardown.
Others have pointed out that Donald Trump’s behaviour more and more parallels someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It may have nothing to do with volume but with a memory store that closely approximates the mythological goldfish.
But in Donald Trump’s briefings, he maintains he did a magnificent job.
No one anticipated a pandemic coming, but evidently other people did and told him, and every time he’s asked a question about one of his comments he doesn’t respond but instead mocks the person asking it.
It’s pretty simple actually. Responsibility moves upward. The techs in the CDC chain of command report to political appointees, who report to the Trump administration, which reports to the American people.
Failure at any level is also the failure of oversight, and those holding responsibilities need to fix the dilemma or oust the people in charge and reinstate them with someone who will mend it.
And if Donald Trump can’t or won’t admit responsibility in fixing things, electors will have to accept accountability and choose a different administration in November.
I would urge every American and every interested international citizen to tune into these briefings because every American that has a functioning hippocampus they should follow these briefings from one week to the next on how increasingly muddled and inconsistent the pandemic response is becoming.
And following state failure play out on live television is an opportunity you rarely get because normally it happens in places that they don’t have live daily briefings.
It’s such a disgrace that the US, a once admired nation could fail so spectacularly in the one time of actual need but it’s simply another in the long list of obvious, to those with a functional brain that America is in decline, along with the fools who follow the evil behind the decline who are feverishly working to grease the skids.
I mean, how evil can one get but then hate and greed has no bottom.
From the greatest generation to the worst in one generation and how was it that the boomers sold out? What happened to the idealism of the 1960s and how did they get so corrupt so fast, and how did they screw it up so bad?
I’m aware that there were lots of problems with that generation but when you compare the two, them and their children (boomers), it’s difficult to disregard the stark difference in disgusting, irresponsible behaviour.
The previous generation had opportunity, education and hindsight, so why did they screw it up so much? And to end up with Donald Trump, it seems pretty clear something went seriously awry.
But this screw up with the CDC doesn’t shock me and I’m guessing that most people at the CDC arrived there straight from academic postdoc positions.
Academia begets pretty bad habits, weak standards for success and has virtually no quality control and a lot of this comes from positively minuscule budgets and having to use expired reagents is common or balances going years without calibration because they need to use the money on other things.
And allowing coefficient of variance of 20 per cent between samples and not doing any analyst to analyst variance testing is normal because it previously worked that one time and they need to publish as soon as possible.
The industry has extensive precision but in the lab at least, corporate practices are a different can of worms and just having Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place for every little task eliminates so much of that human oversight.
Each instrument has to be calibrated and pass QC testing before use every day but some academic scientists us a pH probe that hasn’t been calibrated or tested for a year.
The point is, all scientists are trained in academia and unless they’ve been exposed to the rigidity and the steadfast dictates of working in a certified cGMP system they’re going to still have bad academic habits.
And some heads should be rolling and yes, some of their efforts have been great, but numerous vital points were utterly lacking or non-existent.