One of the reasons we are still on lockdown is that we cannot tell who has COVID-19 and who does not. The virus is sneaky. People can wander around sharing the virus with everyone near them and not display any symptoms themselves. For two and a half days. We desperately need to be able to test for who has the virus, and for who has had the virus. Only when we can make both those tests, in very high volumes, and have immediate or near-immediate results, can we start back to a normal life.1
A test for the virus would allow us to tell who is safe to be around. It would tell us who is infected. If we could test restaurant workers every 2-3 days for infection, we’d know if it was safe to let them prepare and serve us food. Better still, if we had reliable antibody tests that could tell us who has developed immunity to the disease, we’d have a safe – well, reasonably safe – group who could start the much-promised re-opening of the U.S. economy.
Vice President Mike Pence promised us a million tests for infection a day weeks ago, but the actual number of tests administered remains stalled at about 150,000 a day, a tiny fraction of the million or 1.5 million per day needed. It’s a fine example of how the Trump Administration has over-promised and under-delivered in this pandemic. Even a million tests a day would require a year to test all 330 million Americans. Even aiming low, the Trump Administration has utterly, abjectly flubbed the development and distribution of COVID-19 tests.2
The antibody test to determine who has immunity has been equally flubbed but in a different way. Anyone who thinks they have an effective antibody test has been allowed to proceed, without anything like a competent evaluation of accuracy or reliability. The result is a medically meaningless program lurching into existence. It’s a completely uncontrolled, unscientific exercise in futility, because you cannot trust the results. The Trump Administration has further muddled the problem by failing to explain to citizens that the antibody test is not a measure of whether or not a person is infected. At the risk of being obvious, you can have the virus and not have a measurable immune response. The limited data available suggests those infected with the virus but not having symptoms are the ones less likely to show antibodies. Attempting to test for COVID-19 with an antibody test is dangerously useless.
Thanks to the mind-boggling incompetence of the Trump Administration, the COVID-19 test is not available in sufficient numbers to be useful in the crisis. That same abysmal skill set has seriously muddled the antibody test. So much winning!
That leaves a vaccine as the possible solution.
And that takes us to Brett Giroir, the man President Trump has appointed to manage the development of that critical, despertely needed vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Giroir worked on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University. Where he
was fired resigned. The Washington Post reports:
But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was “more interested in promoting yourself” than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a “team player.”
By many reports, his tenure as director of the Texas vaccine project illustrated his operating style: sweeping statements about the impact of his work, not all of which turned out as some had hoped. His colleagues say he “over-promised and under-delivered.”
You see? Giroir will fit in perfectly in the Trump Administration. Self-promotion at the expense of getting the job done? Practically a job requirement. Over-promising and under-delivering? The signature technique of the Trump Administration.
As for getting an effective vaccine developed quickly? Nope. Proven incompetence.3
Which means we’re totally screwed.
- Yes, a vaccine would work even better, but a vaccine is months, maybe a year or more, away. WC will get to the vaccine in just a moment. ↩
- The guy Trump appointed to assist in supervision of the testing program is a labradoodle breeder. You can’t make this stuff up. ↩
- But “Better than a labradoodle breeder.” ↩
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