This Is Your Security Force

by | Mar 11, 2020

Well how do you like that?

The New York Times:

Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, knew that the United States did not have much time.

In late January, the first confirmed American case of the coronavirus had landed in her area. Critical questions needed answers: Had the man infected anyone else? Was the deadly virus already lurking in other communities and spreading?

As luck would have it, Dr. Chu had a way to monitor the region. For months, as part of a research project into the flu, she and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region.

To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.

By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval.

What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it.

“It must have been here this entire time,” Dr. Chu recalled thinking with dread. “It’s just everywhere already.”

In fact, officials would later discover through testing, the virus had already contributed to the deaths of two people, and it would go on to kill 20 more in the Seattle region over the following days.

Federal and state officials said the flu study could not be repurposed because it did not have explicit permission from research subjects; the labs were also not certified for clinical work. While acknowledging the ethical questions, Dr. Chu and others argued there should be more flexibility in an emergency during which so many lives could be lost. On Monday night, state regulators told them to stop testing altogether.

The failure to tap into the flu study, detailed here for the first time, was just one in a series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier. Instead, local officials across the country were left to work blindly as the crisis grew undetected and exponentially.

Read the rest here.

About Scott Horton

Scott Horton is director of the Libertarian Institute, editorial director of Antiwar.com, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He's the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool's Errand:Time to End the War in Afghanistan, editor of the 2019 book The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019 and the 2022 book Hotter Than The Sun: Time to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. He’s conducted more than 5,800 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Larisa Alexandrovna Horton.

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