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How the Coronavirus Became an American Catastrophe (or why we should have tested sooner)

The death and economic damage sweeping the United States could have been avoided—if only we had started testing for the virus sooner.

How many people are sick with the coronavirus in the United States, and when did they get sick?

These are crucial questions to answer, but they have never been answered well. Archived data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—illustrated in the chart HERE—reveal that the government dramatically misunderstood what was happening in America as the outbreak began.

On the last day of February, the CDC reported that 15 Americans had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In the past week, as the country’s testing capacity has increased, officials have discovered more cases. Today, more than 17,000 people have tested positive.

That may sound like a lot. But experts believe that the United States still isn’t testing enough people to detect the outbreak’s true spread. The virologist Trevor Bedford has found evidence that the coronavirus began spreading in the United States in January. It has already infected approximately 87,000 Americans, he says.

Here’s what his estimate of the pandemic’s arrival in America looks like—compared with how many people we thought were sick at the time: (click HERE for graphic)

The truth is: We don’t know how many Americans are infected with the coronavirus.

The United States is a country soon to be overrun with sick people. As the positive tests for the new coronavirus have ticked upward, so, inevitably, will the deaths.

A study published this week by Imperial College London predicted that unless aggressive action is taken, the coronavirus could kill 2.2 million Americans in the coming months. A day after that study was published, its lead researcher developed a dry cough and fever. He had COVID-19.

When Wuhan began burning with infections in December, the U.S. government took only illogical, inadequate actions to stop the virus’s spread: It banned foreigners from entering from China, but inconsistently monitored Americans returning from the country. The president laughed off the virus and the Democrats’ response to it, calling it their “new hoax,” which immediately polarized the citizenry’s response to precautionary public-health information. When the sparks of this conflagration hit, Seattle was aflame before anyone at the CDC had started to reach for water.

COVID-19 is an American catastrophe, a slow-motion disaster only now coming into view. When its true proportions have been measured, it will make the early government response look even more outrageous than it already seems. What’s happening here, in this country, was avoidable. Nearly every flaw in America’s response to the virus has one source: America did not test enough people for COVID-19.

 Testing should have told doctors how to triage patients and hospitals when to prepare their wards. It should have allowed governors to gauge the severity of a local outbreak and informed federal officials as they allocated scarce masks and ventilators. Testing should have answered the all-important question in any pandemic: How many people are sick right now? Had the nation known that, the systems that were put into place over years of pandemic planning could have powered on, protecting millions of Americans and containing the illness. [ … ]

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