At least 323 people in the United States have now died from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a CNN report, with the total number of cases nearing 27,000 by the early hours of Sunday morning — a total that makes the U.S. the world’s third-most affected country, trailing only China and Italy.
But according to reporting by Alexis C. Madrigal and Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic magazine, the massive crisis that the pandemic has created in the U.S. “could have been avoided — if only we had started testing for the virus sooner.”
In fact, the official number of approximately 27,000 cases appears to be significantly lower than the actual number due to the slow and largely botched rollout of testing in the U.S., according to the Atlantic report. According to virologist Trevor Bedford, cited by the magazine, the coronavirus started spreading in the U.S. sometime in late January — and by now has likely infected about 87,000 people.
The truth, according to The Atlantic, is that “we don’t know how many Americans are infected with the coronavirus.”
While there are multiple reasons for the slow rollout of coronavirus testing, according to one reporter who has covered the Donald Trump administration response to the outbreak, it was Trump himself who “made clear” that he did not want a widespread testing program because he feared that more testing would uncover more cases. Higher coronavirus test numbers would reportedly damage his reelection chances in the fall.
In addition to the sickness and loss of life caused by the coronavirus, the pandemic has also led to a drastic economic collapse in the U.S. The investment bank Goldman Sachs projects that in the second quarter of 2020, American gross domestic product will plunge by a dizzying 24 percent, an all-time record that would dwarf the previous highest GDP drop of 10 percent in 1958, according to a Business Insider report.
Other leading financial institutions cited in the Business Insider report unanimously predict that the U.S. will be in the grip of a deep recession by the early summer of 2020.
But both the human cost and economic damage were “avoidable,” according to Madrigal and Meyer’s reporting.
“Nearly every flaw in America’s response to the virus has one source,” they wrote in their Atlantic report.
“America did not test enough people for COVID-19.”
COVID-19 is the medical name of the potentially severe and even fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Widespread testing allows medical professionals to locate clusters of the disease and track its spread — data that is essential to curbing and ultimately stopping an epidemic, according to The Atlantic.
“If you don’t know where the disease is early in the epidemic, you have no hope of containing it,” Boston University infectious disease expert Nahid Bhadeli told the magazine.
“The way no one expected how this response would fail in the U.S. is the testing.”