The U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has been "much, much worse than almost any other country that's been affected," Ashish Jha, who runs the Harvard Global Health Institute, told NPR on Thursday. "I still don't understand why we don't have extensive testing. Vietnam! Vietnam has tested more people than America has." Without testing, he added, "you have no idea how extensive the infection is," and "we have to shut schools, events, and everything down, because that's the only tool available to us until we get testing back up. It's been stunning to me how bad the federal response has been."
There are a lot of reasons why the U.S. lags other countries in testing for the new coronavirus — defective early tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the decision not to adopt an effective German test adopted by the World Health Organization — but Politico's Dan Diamond told Fresh Air's Terry Gross on Thursday that politics also seems to have played a role, along with mismanagement and infighting between, for example, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, the Medicare chief.
In January, Azar "did push past resistance from the president's political aides to warn the president the new coronavirus could be a major problem," Diamond said, but he "has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen. My understanding is [Trump] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that's partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear — the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall."
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed America's "sad" testing failure, the "provincial" decision not to use the WHO test, and other missteps and positive moves with Stephen Colbert on Thursday's Late Show. You can watch that below. Peter Weber