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The government stopped Seattle doctors from getting ahead on coronavirus testing for weeks — then more than 20 people died from it

Lost time

John Moore/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest story about coronavirus, besides the spread of the virus itself, is how the government has responded to it — and whether that response was swift and strong enough.

In Seattle, the hardest-hit city in the United States so far, doctors suspected that the virus was more widespread than previously thought as early as late January, but they say state and federal government officials prevented them from testing samples for coronavirus.

What's the story?

Dr. Helen Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, found out about the first American coronavirus case in late January. That spurred questions about how widespread the virus might already be in Seattle.

Chu was on a team that had been conducting flu research, so they had many samples from patients in the area who had exhibited flu symptoms. They wanted to repurpose those samples for coronavirus testing, but they needed government approval. That's where they hit a wall. From the New York Times:

To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.

Government officials were concerned that the doctors wanted to run coronavirus tests on patient samples without patient consent. Also, the lab was not certified for clinical work. But the doctors believed an emergency situation called for greater flexibility.

Defying orders

By late February, Chu and her team decided to ignore the government's restrictions and conduct the coronavirus testing anyway. They quickly found more positive tests.

"It must have been here this entire time," Dr. Chu thought at the time, according to the Times. "It's just everywhere already."

The cost of lost time

In the days that followed, several Washington state residents would die from coronavirus. The death toll in the state is now 31.

(H/T: Hot Air)

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