The COVID Testing Debacle Shows America Isn’t Great Again, It’s Flailing

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Last week, my uncle went to the hospital. He tested positive for COVID-19 after having had the virus in March and recovering. He had no symptoms and we assumed it was just a false positive or one of those “we picked up the remnants of virus” situations that we’ve been hearing about.

It was. He has since tested negative twice and has left isolation.

My uncle’s positive result, however, forced several members of my family to get tested as they had been in contact with him in the previous week. It was just a precaution because we are in New York City and we are going out of way to prevent another epidemic like we had in the spring. But a week later, they are still waiting for their results. Because of this, neither my dad nor my cousin can go back to work until they get a negative test…or two weeks have past since they were last exposed to the person who tested positive. Whichever comes first.

At this rate, the latter may happen first.

Now, we see this is happening all over the country. When I get tested in New York City on May 31, I got a result later that same day. Now, 7-10 day waiting times are the norm in the city, and in hotspots like Texas and Arizona, patients are being told it could be three weeks, or they aren’t able to get a test at all.

This is unsustainable. How can we get our economy moving again if workers have to go into quarantine every couple of weeks waiting for test results? What happens if my father goes back to work, only to have been exposed again, and now has to get a test and wait another week? We’re going to have situations where this is happening constantly and people are spending more time in quarantine than at work or school.

And we’re not alone here. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, who recently announced she had COVID-19, said she waited eight days for the results of her test, which may have led multiple people in her household to get infected when they were negative at the time of the test. The mayor of a major city cannot sit in isolation for a week while she waits for test results. How can our government function? The Houston Astros and several other baseball teams, preparing to play a shortened season starting later this month, called off training camp because the test turnout took too long. You want sports back? Get us timely test results.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom said it took her over a week to get a positive COVID test result back.

Other countries manage to turn around results in less than 24 hours; South Korea, Germany, Australia. In Korea, some tests take as little as 15 minutes. In Iceland, two hours. They are COVID-free and open for business.

It is an absolute disgrace that six months into this pandemic, it is still taking a week to get back a test for a severely infectious disease, or that in hotspots, there are still not enough tests. It was enough of a disgrace that it happened in March, but this is July!

The tests are useless if you can’t get one and get a result in a timely manner. You may infected someone in the time since the test. Either you’ve been in total isolation since the test as a precaution, meaning you’re not even going out to buy essentials, let alone going to work, or you did go out and might have infected someone, or someone in your household. Even more concerning, what if you were negative at the time of the test and got infected SINCE and now you’re positive? At lot a good a negative test result from a week ago does in that scenario. It is inconceivable that in the United States in 2020 people have to sit in isolation because there’s a backup in test results.

This is supposed to be the greatest country in the world; the richest country in the world. We put a man on the Moon, but we can’t get people a timely test result for COVID.

In the meantime, the creature occupying the Oval Office, badly playing the role as president, joked? that he told his aids to slow down testing, right in the middle of an epidemic in several key election states. Has that contributed to the backlog of testing? Perhaps. Or perhaps his lack of urgency in controlling the epidemic lead to massive outbreaks in other states that pushed us beyond our capacity. In March, it was New York having a big outbreak with smaller ones in Detroit, Boston and New Orleans. Now, it’s the three largest states and Arizona with smaller ones in Nevada, the Carolinas, Georgia and the Bible Belt.

What is he doing?

As a New Yorker, especially one who works in real estate, we all know stories about Donald Trump and how he operates. There is one characteristic of his that keeps churning in my mind. His pettiness. Donald Trump commonly seeks to get “proactive revenge” from people he feels, or knows, will spurn him. Not just the ones who do, but also the ones that he expects will, or are told will. Trump knows he’s losing and he’s being told the election may very well be hopeless. What damage is he or will he do the country in his final six months in office to a population that’s on the verge of rejecting him in embarrassing fashion. The same kind of thing he would do to a landlord who went with another offer. Its terrifying to ponder.

I don’t know who the bigger problem is: Our federal government for being so plainly incompetent at managing a (predictable) crisis, or the American people for putting up with it?


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