CDC Report: Officials Knew Coronavirus Test Was Flawed But Released It Anyway


We're also tracking the pandemic where the United States remains the world leader in cases and deaths this election week the U. S surpassed 100,000 cases per day for the first time, and today we have more of the story of how we got here. And NPR investigation has revealed news of a failure of Corona virus testing early in the pandemic. In February, a test designed by the Centers for Disease Control did not work, which set back U. S efforts now on internal investigation from the CDC, obtained by NPR shows the microbiologist who produced that test new it was flawed. And send it to the nation's labs. Anyway. Here's NPR's Dina Temple Raston. The covert tests arrived in New York City on a Friday in early February, when there were just a handful of confirmed cases in the United States that there was a little box with a few little tiny screw cap test tubes in it. That's Jennifer Rickman. She's the director and assistant commissioner of the New York City Public Health Laboratory, and she was one of the first people to learn that the cove in 19 tests the CDC sent to labs around the country. Actually didn't work. It became clear as soon as her lab technicians tried to verify the test. But the e mails from the lab stuff for saying something looks not quite right. Call us what jumped out at them. When the lab brand specimens that were supposed to be negative. The tests seem to indicate those samples contained a low level of the corona virus. It was truly an oh, crap moment like what are we going to do now? Everybody is waiting for us all over the city to have this test online. Everybody was holding on to this moment that we were going to have a test and now we don't have it and they wouldn't have it. It turns out until nearly a month later in March, which meant public health officials were hobbled from the earliest days of the pandemic health officials across the country reporting a shortage of tests. Despite promises from the federal government comes amid growing criticism that the delay in testing may have compromised the nation's ability to detect cases The CDC lab appear to have failed in a spectacular way. Though, as recently as July, the agency was still saying the test didn't have a problem. Here's CDC director Robert Redfield. When we did try to expand that test to give it to each of the local health departments, there wasn't manufacturing problem in one of the re agents that had to be corrected. That took about five weeks, But the agency's internal review suggests that isn't so It determined that the scientists who built the test used the wrong quality control procedures. The review also found problems with the lab's quality standards and problems with the management of the Latin more generally. The infectious diseases lab was run by a highly regarded scientists, Dr Stephen Lindstrom. He'd been an expert in influenza at the CDC for more than a decade and became director of the infectious Diseases lab a couple of years ago. The CDC declined to make Lindstrom available for an interview and declined to comment for the story. But Kelly Rib Lusky, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, Said she was surprised that Lindstrom's lab would be called out on a report for something basic like quality control. That hadn't been her experience with him. I've done studies with Steve, and he's meticulous. And so the documentation failure was really surprising, So that was one thing the CDC found. A problem in the way the lab was run. The second thing that review found was that right before the test, we're going to be sent to hundreds of public labs. The lab ran a final check that showed the kids might not work. Ah, third of the time. But rather than pull the kids back, lab officials sent them out anyway. Kelly Rib less key again. The thing that hangs me up the most is probably the the 33% and not recalling you're not immediately going toe remanufacture or something at that point, because 33% is clearly a lot. To ensure this never happens again. The CDC review has recommendations for change. It sets clear criteria that must be met before the kids could be sent out rather than allowing lab directors to make a judgment call. An outside group must review all the CDC test kits before they go out. Stephen Lindstrom, for his part, no longer runs the lab and none of the same people who oversaw the making of that test. Are in charge. Now. New York's Rickman says that month they lost was crucial to the outcome in the response nationally as well as in New York City would have been different if we were able to have all the tools we needed in our toolbox earlier than we did not having the CDC tests, she said, was like building a house with just a saw and not a hammer. They needed a hammer, she said. Dina Temple Raston NPR news

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