With Both Covid and Monkeypox, C.D.C. Wrongly “Tried to Maintain Control Over Testing”

(p. A14) Too often in a crisis, government officials look for easy solutions, with dramatic and immediate impact. But there are none for managing pandemics.

“A pandemic is by definition a problem from hell. You’re vanishingly unlikely to be able to remove all of its negative consequences,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Instead, he added, officials should bet on combinations of imperfect strategies, with an emphasis on speed over accuracy.

In both the coronavirus pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak, for example, the C.D.C. at first tried to maintain control over testing, instead of disseminating the responsibility as widely as possible. The move led to limited testing, and left health officials blind to the spread of the viruses.

The Food and Drug Administration was slow to help academic labs develop alternatives for testing, and encouraged the highest quality of diagnosis. It may be reasonable for officials to ask which test is faster or which one produces the least errors, Dr. Hanage said, but “all of them are better than not doing anything.”

For the full commentary, see:

Apoorva Mandavilli. “Unprepared for Covid and Monkeypox. And the Next Outbreak, Too.” The New York Times (Saturday, October 1, 2022): A14.

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated Sept. 30, 2022, and has the title “New Infectious Threats Are Coming. The U.S. Probably Won’t Contain Them.”)

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