How The Center For Disease Control And Prevention Failed Us

From Alex Taborrok’s review of Scott Gottlieb’s new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why Covid-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.

“If there’s one overarching theme of “Uncontrolled Spread,” it’s that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed utterly. It’s now well known that the CDC didn’t follow standard operating procedures in its own labs, resulting in contamination and a complete botch of its original SARS-CoV-2 test. The agency’s failure put us weeks behind and took the South Korea option of suppressing the virus off the table. But the blunder was much deeper and more systematic than a botched test. The CDC never had a plan for widespread testing, which in any scenario could only be achieved by bringing in the big, private labs.

Instead of working with the commercial labs, the CDC went out of its way to impede them from developing and deploying their own tests. The CDC wouldn’t share its virus samples with commercial labs, slowing down test development. ‘The agency didn’t view it as a part of its mission to assist these labs.’ Dr. Gottlieb writes. As a result, ‘It would be weeks before commercial manufacturers could get access to the samples they needed, and they’d mostly have to go around the CDC. One large commercial lab would obtain samples from a subsidiary in South Korea.’

In the early months of the pandemic the CDC impeded private firms from developing their own tests and demanded that all testing be run through its labs even as its own test failed miserably and its own labs had no hope of scaling up to deal with the levels of testing needed. Moreover, the author notes, because its own labs couldn’t scale, the CDC played down the necessity of widespread testing and took ‘deliberate steps to enforce guidelines that would make sure it didn’t receive more samples than its single lab could handle.'”

The solution has to be a more decentralized public health apparatus, doesn’t it?

The ‘Rona Reflex

Yesterday, I began my day with one of my favorite runs to PriestPoint Park and back. I went in the back door, meaning I climbed up 26th and then hung a right on the wide, paved connector road that drops down before dead ending into a single track trail on the park’s edge.

At least ten feet away, a young hipster (meaning he sported a beard) and his cute dog were walking up the 12-foot wide connector on the opposite shoulder of me. While exchanging silent “good morning” smiles, I couldn’t help but notice he edged off of the car-less road’s shoulder to create one or two more feet of distance between us.

Because he was youngish, seemingly healthy, not wearing a mask, and smiled at me, I doubt he was a grunt in the Mask Wars. And yet, even though everyone now knows the CDC guidelines—six feet away from one another when indoors while masked—I predict many will continue going a lot further given the ‘rona reflex which is the now deeply engrained idea that if some distance and masks and safety precautions are good, more are better.

I am not advocating for Texas Governor-like “Neanderthal thinking” about masks and mitigation. I’m advocating for proportionality. Specifically, a return to more relaxed interpersonal interactions as we chip away at the virus. Trusting that 12 feet is more than sufficient when outside.

If, in return, the Neanderthals are more patient with our neighbors for whom the reflex is deeply engrained, maybe the YouTube videos of people losing their minds while fighting the Mask War will abate and a post-‘pan peace will descend upon the land.

Uff da, The Dakotas Are Getting Hammered

Why is that? There are several clues in “Why North and South Dakota are suffering the worst Covid-19 epidemics in the US”.

“Unlike other states, South and North Dakota never fully closed down, with the Republican governors in each state resisting ever issuing a stay-at-home order. So most of each state remained open — allowing the virus to spread freely through bars, restaurants, parties, celebrations, rodeos, rallies, and other large gatherings. Among those potential spreading events was a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in early August, which some experts now blame for a Covid-19 surge that followed in the region, particularly in the Upper Midwest.

Neither state has adopted a mask mandate, which research shows can help suppress the coronavirus. Based on some national data, both Dakotas have some of the lowest rates of mask-wearing in the US.

Bonny Specker, an epidemiologist at South Dakota State University, was blunt in her assessment of the situation in the Dakotas. “Federal and many state leaders have not implemented mandates or reinforced [public health agencies’] recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus,” she told me. ‘In South Dakota, the governor had the information needed to minimize the impact of this virus on the health of South Dakotans, but she ignored that information as well as national recommendations from the CDC.'”

It would be wrong to politicize a public health crisis of this magnitude by reiterating the “Republican Governors” point. So I won’t reiterate the “Republican Governors” point.