EDITORIAL: We need answers on lack of testing

EDITORIAL: We need answers on lack of testing

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It has been a week since Glens Falls Hospital announced it was suspending drive-up testing for COVID-19 outside the emergency department.

It had essentially run out of test kits for the general public.

The red tent outside the emergency department is gone.

The cones that outlined the drive-up lanes have been taken away.

But the threat remains.

The lack of testing is a familiar story and not the hospital’s fault. What testing kits it has left are kept for front line health-care workers and those already admitted to the hospital.

That makes sense.

But it also begs the question: “What about the rest of us?”

After this editorial had been started, it hit home for us. The teenaged child of one of our editorial board members began having lung issues. The parents were told they cannot get a test.

Put yourself in that predicament

We’ve been fortunate so far with only a handful of local cases, but we fear that is giving us a false sense of security. We believe the low numbers are because of a lack of testing.

Glens Falls Hospital officials said on Thursday they had processed nearly 700 tests and were still waiting on the results of 200 more. But they didn’t say when they would get more tests, and if they ever would be able to resume drive-up testing.

Gov. Cuomo said Friday there were more than 37,000 confirmed cases in New York, and explained that tests and supplies were being used in high density areas first—like New York City.

That also makes sense and should not be looked at as a regional bias by the governor.

But we remind the governor of something else he said:

“The single most important thing we can do to combat and contain the novel coronavirus is test for it.”

So where are the tests?

Rep Elise Stefanik, while appearing on Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson show two week ago, was asked why the U.S. was lagging so far behind on the testing front.

“There is no explanation,” Stefanik said.

We find that answer unsatisfying.

If you believe that no one ever thought about this pandemic-like scenario, you would be wrong.

The Trump administrations’s Department of Health and Human Services conducted a series of exercises—scientific war games, if you will—over an eight-month period in 2019. During that time, it simulated responses to a pretend influenza-like pandemic that spread around the world.

Code-named “Crimson Contagion,” the results of the exercise were sobering, with 110 million Americans expected to become ill and more than 500,000 dying.

The exercise revealed significant problems in the government’s response:

  • Federal agencies were confused about who was in charge.
  • State governments and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was available in stockpiles.

Does any of this sound a little like the nightly news, or Gov. Cuomo’s daily press conference?

And we are seeing this play out in real time in our own community.

What the federal government learned from the simulations was that it had to respond quickly and decisively at the start of a pandemic.

Schools needed to be closed, social distancing had to be practiced and broad testing had to be conducted early.

We are still waiting for those tests and we are already hearing calls to limit the social distancing and get people back to work.

That cannot happen until there is testing available and we can be sure it is safe.

“Crimson Contagion,” once just a nightmare on paper, has become a reality in New York City.

Just a week ago, President Trump was asked about the government preparedness and said this:

“Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion. Nobody has ever seen anything like this.”

He is wrong.

Members of his own administration were briefed about the shortcomings months ago.

Back in January, U.S. intelligence agencies warned members of Congress the pandemic was likely.

The alarms should have been sounded then about the shortage of tests and other supplies.

Instead, we worry the slightest fever or cough from a loved one may be something much worse.

One of our board members is living that right now.

Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Chuck Cumming.

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