The Latest: Covid-19 testing delays reach “absurd” levels

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
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Jul 17, 2020

Dear Reader,

It was not a good week. The United States reported yet another single-day spike in new cases yesterday, the CDC is losing access to critical Covid-19 data, and debates over masks (which work!) continue. One of my colleagues shared that “this feels like New York in April… except with no lockdown.” I am based in New York, and I have to agree. It’s alarming to see states experiencing the same overwhelmed emergency rooms and spiking cases. Rather than deal with the crisis aggressively, it seems the U.S. prefers to allow the pandemic to drag on. Which means more people will die.

READ: Andy Slavitt on Lessons from New York

Rather than round up the news today, I’m trying something new: I’m sharing what our team of health and science journalists has been talking about and reporting on this week. (The news is still available on the blog, and in next Wednesday’s newsletter.)

Follow our Medium Coronavirus Blog for regular updates, and read some of the essential stories we’ve curated below.

Be well,

Alexandra Sifferlin
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog

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4 things we’re talking about on the Blog:

Tests are backlogged again. Should you still get one? Blog writer and editor Yasmin Tayag has been waiting over nine days 🤯 for her Covid-19 test results. One doctor told her this week that “if somebody is waiting for their results and had been tested for possible exposure, they should quarantine accordingly and if they need to go out for some unavoidable reason, to wear a mask and physically distance.” 😬

The fact that we are dealing with these kinds of delays yet again is, in Yasmin’s words, “absurd.” Technically you should still get tested, though — if you can. It’s important if you’re spending time with people and could be exposed. Read the full story here.

The CDC is in trouble. We are perplexed by a decision from the White House to no longer send hospital coronavirus data to the agency. The CDC’s purpose is to respond to pandemics. A move like this makes understanding the spread of the disease more difficult and harder to contain. The CDC is the envy of the world for its expertise, independence, and resources. The expertise is still there, but without the independence or resources, it’s no help in keeping Americans alive. Read more on the decision and its implications.

Before you panic about Covid-19 immunity stories, read this. New stories and studies out this week suggest that immunity to Covid-19 doesn’t last. That may well be true, but scientists are seeking more definitive data. Yasmin wrote a fascinating explainer on how to read these new findings. It’s important to understand not only the scientific process, but the mysteries of the human immune system. Read her explanation here.

Also: Why are we still debating masks?! The director of the CDC recently shared that “if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.” And yet, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has filed a lawsuit to block Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from enforcing a citywide mask mandate. 🙃 And a recent survey found that 44% of McDonald’s employees surveyed have been assaulted for asking customers to wear a mask or social distance. A mask is not political. It’s a piece of material that prevents your spit from being breathed in by the person across the table from you, and prevents you from breathing in their spit. That’s it. Send this to a friend who still doesn’t get it. 😷 And send this, too.

Here’s a few smart reads:

A Second Coronavirus Death Surge Is Coming

The Coronavirus is Mutating. It’s Unclear if That’s a Problem.

The Other Side of Covid-19 Immunity

Lyft Is Selling — But Not Providing — Masks and Sanitizer to Drivers



Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that