LISTENING VERY CAREFULLY TO THE EXPERTS ON COVID19

KELLEY KIDD MARCH 30, 2020 This posting is a response to a friend who told me last night that a true expert, a former director of the CDC, had written an article in USA TODAY that said testing for the virus is a waste of time. My friend went on to argue that the expert showed that critics of the government’s alleged failures on that matter were absurd, that testing does not treat the virus, that people who have the virus just need to stay home until they get well. He added that half the cases of COVID19 in his home town of Augusta, Georgia were concentrated at the state operated medical research and treatment center where he works, and that half of the other people who worked there are Chinese.

I noted that the lack of testing equipment in Augusta made it unsurprising that the cases discovered so far were disproportionately located in that facility. But I also promised to look into the views of the former director of the CDC. I have done that. After viewing an extensive interview with that expert published by USA TODAY, I found my friend had been partially correct. I also found that my friend had completely misunderstood that expert’s views.

The interview took place on March 25 and the expert’s name was Tom Frieden. He said early in he interview that he was personally located in New York City at that time. He expressed concerns that the medical facilities and their staffs IN THAT CITY AT THAT TIME were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by the sick people they had to attend in that specific situation. Dr. Frieden urged people who had only mild symptoms to stay home rather than come to the New York City hospitals for testing. His expressed reason for that request was the need to avoid overwhelming the staffs of those hospitals by forcing those staffs to spend a lot of time in testing people with mild symptoms. He stressed that this kind of testing right now would be done AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TIME NEEDED TO HELP CRITICALLY ILL PATIENTS. On the other hand, the doctor urged people who were having trouble breathing to come to the hospitals (for needed testing and treatment).

Dr. Frieden in the same interview talked about the uneven patterns of people getting sick in various locations, and he expressed support for the use of testing. At one point he even said that “drive through testing may have an important role.” He bragged about the response of the CDC with developing and delivering testing in other previous outbreaks of communicable diseases. He mentioned the gratitude that had come from other nations for the leadership of the United States during previous pandemics. And he indicated support for an inquiry into why the U.S. has not developed testing for COVID19 earlier. He also stated clearly that this particular crisis is of unprecedented scope and seriousness.

Listening to the experts is extremely important in this crisis. But that requires careful listening and remaining open minded. First impressions which come from initial reading or listening may be far from gathering good information.

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