As part of newspaper lore from back in the 1950s, the question “What seems to be the hold-up?” is still in vogue.
The nerve-wracking journeys for all publications to beat their standing deadlines coined that popular query at least 70 years ago.
Now, the same question is current in Washington D.C. where voices are being raised all over the place in a quest for the most intelligent answers on how to speed the virus crisis to a worthy, happy ending.
Wall Street Journal reporters Christopher Weaver and Rebecca Ballhaus came up with explanatory answers to the multiplicity of problems now crippling the United States and scores of other nations. But action takes a lot more time.
Fast, widespread testing is a key requirement for safely reopening businesses and returning to something close to normal life, public health experts say.
But as officials repeatedly target disarray, shortages and backlogs they find that they encounter stubborn stumbling blocks scattered across the national landscape.
As President Trump and many of his advisers focus more attention on the U.S. economic reopening, lower ranking officials are trying to sort out the testing puzzle and individual labs are vying for supplies in a fractured and exhausted marketplace.
The private sector hasn’t, so far, been able to deliver nearly enough tests to meet the enormous demand in America, more than six weeks after the Food and Drug Administration allowed private companies to manufacture test kits and put them to use without having to be approved.
“It is a little bit insane,” David Grenache, the lab director at TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., said. “Everyone is running around trying to get as much as they can from every vendor. Laboratories are competing with each other to get needed resources.”
By one top administration official’s account, testing through April will only meet about half the capacity that is needed. Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing coordinator, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, that he believes three or four million tests would be performed during the month.
Trump tweeted “The States have to step up their TESTING!”
In recent days, state and hospital officials found internal devices were frequently producing inaccurate results, leading at least one hospital to return the devices, they said in interviews.
As of April 20, the United States had tested about 3.7 million people, about 1% of the population, according to data released by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
An administration official said in an interview last week that widespread testing will be primarily important after the country starts reopening, rather than beforehand. Independent health experts dispute that.
So as we gain information about the hold-ups, it becomes clear that putting plans into operations will still take many more weeks of time, with failures along the way.