March 16, 2020
By Naomi Lopez

Until recently, images of drive-up COVID-19 testing sites were coming from South Korea and other countries—but not from U.S. cities. That has left many asking the question: Why has it taken so long to get access to convenient COVID-19 testing here is the U.S.?

Unfortunately, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and red tape have kept public and private testing kits and labs from being used early in the crisis to diagnose patients carrying the virus. This will contribute to delayed actionable and valuable information that could affect people’s lives.

Anthony Fauci, M.D., who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recently testified before a U.S. House Committee that “[t]he system does not—is not really geared to what we need right now—what you are asking for. That is a failing. It is a failing. Let’s admit it.

“The fact is, the way the system was set up is that the public health component… was a system where you put it out there in the public, and a physician asks for it, and you get it. The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it—we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”

Fortunately, that may now be changing. In addition to declaring a national emergency on Friday, President Trump also issued a memo that directs federal agencies to expand state-approved diagnostic tests and labs approved to analyze those tests, as well as those of the CDC’s test. The same day, the FDA granted the state of New York more flexibility to use their own testing kits and labs to test for COVID-19 and, fortunately, convenient testing sites are now becoming more common across the country.

Naomi Lopez is the Director of Healthcare Policy at the Goldwater Institute.

This is part of an ongoing series of posts analyzing America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. For more on this topic from Goldwater Institute experts, click here.

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