Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes blame for testing delays that may have led to hundreds of Americans being quietly infected with the coronavirus, officials inside the health department and the White House are increasingly pointing the finger at one leader: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who they say failed to coordinate the response, as agency chiefs waited for instructions that came too late and other deputies were largely cut out of the process.
Numerous problems with the Trump administration’s testing regimen have come to light: Coronavirus tests developed by CDC were flawed, possibly because the lab itself was contaminated. The resulting lack of test capacity forced U.S. officials to screen a limited number of patients across January and February, with the CDC testing fewer than 500 Americans at the same time that China was likely testing at least 1 million of its own residents. Meanwhile, public health officials had no fallback testing option until the Food and Drug Administration granted approval for hospitals and other labs to develop their own homegrown tests on Saturday — more than six weeks after the first U.S. case of coronavirus was identified.
Public health officials acknowledge that CDC and other parts of the government have repeatedly stumbled in the early days of the outbreak, but say that the 52-year-old Azar, a former drug company executive who took over the department in 2018, did not reach out early or often enough to goad his subordinates into action.
“This was a management failure,” said one administration official, charging that Azar didn’t adequately plan for a worst-case coronavirus scenario that’s grown more likely by the day — even though Azar touted his bona fides as a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, where he helped fight crises like SARS and an anthrax scare. "CDC and FDA should have been working hand-in-hand to get Plan B, Plan C and Plan D ready to go," the official said.
“The administration’s response has been reactive, not proactive,” added a former HHS official. “A lot of what has happened has been driven by outside pressure,” like public health labs sounding the alarm that they were unable to perform the CDC’s tests.
The Pentagon is pitching in on work to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, the military’s top uniformed official said on Monday.
“Our military research labs are working feverishly around the horn here to try to come up with a vaccine. So we’ll see how that develops over the next couple of months,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon.
It’s expected to take a year to 18 months to have a fully effective and accessible COVID-19 vaccine, according to top U.S. health officials.
Travel to Affected Areas
If you or anyone with whom you reside has recently traveled to an affected area including China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan, or if you have any reason to believe that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, please inform your supervisor and Human Resources immediately. Anyone traveling to these areas must work from home, symptom free, for 14 days upon return before returning to work.
Quote:Travel to Affected Areas
. . . Anyone traveling to these areas must work from home, symptom free,
for 14 days upon return before returning to work.