America’s lost month: How the U.S. fell behind on coronavirus testing.
As the deadly coronavirus spread across the United States between late January and early March, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen because of technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies and lack of leadership at multiple levels.
The three federal health agencies responsible for detecting and combating pandemic threats failed to prepare quickly enough, a Times investigation found. Even as scientists looked at China and sounded alarms, none of the agencies’ directors conveyed the urgency required to spur a no-holds-barred defense, according to interviews with more than 50 current and former public health officials, administration officials, senior scientists and company executives.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trusted the agency’s veteran scientists to develop a test for the coronavirus. But when test turned out to have a flaw, it took the C.D.C. much of February to settle on a solution. In the meantime, the virus was spreading undetected.
Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was supposed to help build national testing capacity by approving diagnostic tests developed by the private sector. Yet he enforced regulations that paradoxically made it tougher for hospitals and laboratories to deploy such tests in an emergency.
Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services commissioner, oversaw the two other agencies and coordinated the government’s public health response to the pandemic. Yet he did not manage to push the C.D.C. or F.D.A. to speed up or change course.
Together, the challenges resulted in a lost month, when the United States squandered its best chance of containing the coronavirus’s spread. Instead, Americans were left largely blind to the scale of a looming public health catastrophe.
C.D.C. issues a travel advisory for the New York region, after Trump backs off his quarantine threat.
President Trump said Saturday night that he will not impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut but would instead issue a “strong” travel advisory to be implemented by the governors of the three states.
Mr. Trump made the announcement on Twitter just hours after telling reporters that he was considering a quarantine of the three states in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus to Florida and other states.
Later Saturday night, the C.D.C. issued a formal advisory urging the residents of the three states to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.” The advisory, which was posted to the agency’s website and its Twitter account, does not apply to “employees of critical infrastructure industries,” the agency said. That includes trucking, public health professionals, financial services and food supply workers.
Mr. Trump, when he said he was considering a quarantine for the region, offered no details about how his administration would enforce it. Speaking to CNN, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York criticized the idea, calling it “a declaration of war on states.”
He also questioned the logistical challenges, as well as the message, such an order would present. “If you start walling off areas all across the country it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, antisocial,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s public airing of his deliberations came one day after he signed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package and as cases in the tristate area continued to climb. The specter of a federal quarantine followed a wave of governors who, fearful about the virus spreading further through their states, ordered people who had traveled from New York to isolate themselves for two weeks after their arrivals.
Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said Friday that state troopers would begin stopping drivers with New York license plates so that National Guard officials could collect contact information and inform anyone coming from the state that they were subject to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina are among the other states that have ordered people arriving from New York to self-quarantine. In Texas, for instance, the authorities said Friday that Department of Public Safety agents would make surprise visits to see whether travelers were adhering to the state’s mandate, and they warned that violators could be fined $1,000 and jailed for 180 days.
Mr. Lamont, the Connecticut governor, this week urged all travelers from New York City to self-quarantine for two weeks upon entering the state, but he stopped short of issuing an order requiring it.
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Source Website Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Drops Idea of Quarantining New York Region