American Ingenuity: As Feds Struggle to Make COVID Tests, Free Enterprise Saves the Day


Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” — Ronald Reagan

There are plenty of people, even conservatives, who assume those words are a nice bromide but, when a real crisis like COVID-19 hits, not really practical. And yet, in the very situation in which we’ve found ourselves, it’s been American ingenuity that’s saved our government from itself.

One of the most problematic aspects of controlling coronavirus thus far has been testing. In the United States, there aren’t enough kits to go round, in part because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whiffed when it first developed a coronavirus test kit.

In the early days of the disease, Popular Mechanics reported, the CDC decided not to go with diagnostic tests being used in Wuhan that were based on World Health Organization guidelines.

“Instead, the CDC created its own in-depth diagnostics that could identify not only COVID-19, but a host of SARS-like coronaviruses,” Popular Mechanics reported Thursday.

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“Then, disaster struck: When the CDC sent tests to labs during the first week of February, those labs discovered that while the kits did detect COVID-19, they also produced false positives when checking for other viruses. As the CDC went back to the drawing board to develop yet more tests, precious time ticked away.”

“I think that we should have had testing more widely available about a month earlier,” said Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, a University of Cincinnati professor of clinical medicine. “That would have been more appropriate so that we could have identified people earlier on and used some of the mitigating strategies that we’re using now.”

So, how did we end up getting coronavirus test kits?

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“As the spread of Coronavirus continues to escalate in the U.S., private institutions like academic research hospitals are scrambling in a mad dash to come up with more test kits,” Popular Mechanics reported. “And there is hope: The Cleveland Clinic says it has developed a diagnostic test that can deliver results in just hours, as opposed to the time it takes the existing CDC tests, which can take days.”

Yes, the private sector not only makes tests that work and makes them more quickly, but also makes better tests

There’s not only that, either. In a viral video, Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw explained the delay in getting testing kits out and why blaming anyone — either Trump or Obama — was problematic.

“It’s our regulatory process,” Crenshaw said. “That’s what stopped us from getting a test out to people.”

When the CDC’s test failed, “the FDA said, ‘All right, now we have to take advantage of our pretty great private industry in America and actually allow them to start using their test.

“It only took them a few days, and it only took them a few days to get it up to millions of tests,” Crenshaw said.

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“That’s the situation we’re in now. They loosened those restriction and our private industry has stepped up to the plate.”

And that’s where we are now.

Yes, government intervention is crucial, but it won’t be as crucial as innovation or as private industry. That’s how we’re really going to beat this.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.

In World War II, we were cranking out roughly 11 airframes an hour. Yes, the war effort was directed by government. However, it was our private industry that made it tick.

Our private sector has always been our strength, and woe be unto anyone or anything — including a virus — that underestimates it.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture