How testing failures allowed coronavirus to sweep the U.S.

Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration’s health agencies…

The government’s incapacity to conduct widespread testing slowed diagnoses, creating chains of infection. It also deprived epidemiologists of a map that could have told them how far and how fast the virus was traveling and where they should concentrate efforts to slow it down.

But there were additional problems with the administration’s approach to testing, according to experts and former officials. From the start, the White House focused on containment, trusting that a limited ban on travel to and from China could somehow force a fast-moving virus to stop cold when it hit the Chinese border. But, while containment might have helped buy the U.S. some time, without aggressive domestic surveillance through testing, it was an incomplete strategy.

“They needed and still need to be searching for where the cases are, instead of trusting that limited travel bans were keeping out a virus that was probably already on the march,” said former FDA Commissioner David Kessler.