- The CDC botched its early development of coronavirus test kits, which could not differentiate between the novel coronavirus and lab-grade water, according to a government email obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
- The delay in coronavirus testing has forced federal, state, and local governments to accelerate their response to the outbreak without up-to-date data about how far the virus has spread.
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As government authorities were facing a coronavirus epidemic in February that has now turned into a full-blown crisis, the Centers 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 samples of laboratory-grade water, one email said, according to The Journal. 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 labs 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 said, according to The Journal.
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 representative told The Journal. "It could have been either."
The United States is quickly approaching 15,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Experts have said the CDC and the White House failed to adequately respond to the health crisis.
"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 the Ebola outbreak during the Obama administration, told The Washington Post earlier this month.
"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 said it had tested 32,000 people in the US, or 0.01% of the population. That per-capita rate falls well behind those of countries like China, South Korea, and Italy.