Donald Trump’s administration has faced intense criticism for its response to the growing coronavirus outbreak, but one Harvard University disease expert says that the “incompetence” shown by the White House has been so bad that no one could have predicted how inadequate it would be.
According to The New York Times, Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard, said that Trump’s response to the situation has been shocking.
“The incompetence has really exceeded what anyone would expect with the CDC,” he said. “This is not a difficult problem to solve in the world of viruses.”
Much of the criticism over the administration’s response has been over the roll-out of testing for the COVID-19 virus. The first test kit created by the CDC was faulty, but the problem wasn’t discovered until hundreds of kits had been shipped out across the country. A new kit took several weeks to make and release, meaning that the disease may have been able to spread unchecked during that time.
Meanwhile, the tests that were sent back encountered a bottleneck that delayed results.
Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, weighed in on the delay in getting results.
“We have been really frustrated, because one of the things that is a hallmark of public health labs is that we are usually ‘ready, set, go,’ and here we were — ‘ready, set, wait’,” he said.
Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control, was more circumspect than Mina in his assessment of the situation, but still critical of the government’s response.
“Clearly, there have been problems with rolling out the test,” he said. “There are a lot of frustrated doctors and patients and health departments.”
While testing was being sorted out, at least 103 known Americans have been infected with the virus and six have died. Many states have reported cases that seem to have spread within the community, meaning that it’s likely to have entered the populace.
The government’s response raises questions on whether or not its responsible for allowing the virus time to get established in the country.
Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, said that the virus likely has gotten a toehold and will begin to spread.
“There has been a silent epidemic of Covid-19 in the United States that is not going to be silent any longer,” he said.
Another expert echoed this assessment on Monday, saying that Trump’s decision to downplay the virus likely meant that government agencies weren’t focused on tackling the problem before it got bigger. As a result, the virus could have been spreading across the western United States unchecked.