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Early coronavirus CDC tests didn’t distinguish between virus and water – Business Insider – Business Insider

As government authorities faced a looming coronavirus epidemic in February that has now turned into a full-blown crisis, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention botched its development of testing kits, according to government emails seen by the Wall Street Journal.

In particular, some of the CDC’s tests wrongly detected the new coronavirus in laboratory-grade water. The email, sent from a CDC official to state public-health-lab officials, said some labs found “sporadic reactivity in the negative control of one of the three assay components.”

But the CDC had already sent those kits to state public-health laboratories and had to retrieve them.

“It is unclear why quality control did not detect this issue before the kits were sent out to states,” the email noted.

cdc redfield

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Robert Redfield testifies about coronavirus preparedness and response to the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 12, 2020.

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts


As of Monday, the CDC did not have an explanation for the batch of faulty tests. The organization “has not yet determined if the problem involves the assay design or contamination,” a CDC spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. “It could have been either.”

The United States is quickly approaching 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

The CDC and the White House have failed to adequately respond to the health crisis, according to experts. 

“They’ve simply lost time they can’t make up. You can’t get back six weeks of blindness,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development who presided over the international response to Ebola during the Obama administration, told the Washington Post.

“To the extent that there’s someone to blame here, the blame is on poor, chaotic management from the White House and failure to acknowledge the big picture,” Konyndyk added.

The CDC says it has tested 32,000 people, or 0.009% of the population. 

That per-capita rate falls well behind those in countries like China, South Korea, and Italy.

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