© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former Top Health Officials: Do More Testing And Contact Tracing Or Expect Outbreaks

Health care workers place a nasal swab from a patient into a tube for testing at the Brightpoint Health and UJA-Federation of New York pop-up coronavirus testing site on Friday in New York City.
Angela Weiss
AFP via Getty Images
Health care workers place a nasal swab from a patient into a tube for testing at the Brightpoint Health and UJA-Federation of New York pop-up coronavirus testing site on Friday in New York City.

States around the country are gradually reopening their economies, even as most of them fail to meet voluntary guidelines set by the White House for doing it safely.

At least 31 states are partially reopening as of Monday.

"The Trump administration has really not been following — and governors around the country generally — have not been following their own plan," says Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama.

Slavitt and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who served under President Trump, talked with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep about federal and state reopening strategy. The two wrote to congressional leaders last month asking for funding for contact tracing and isolating infected people. Both Slavitt and Gottlieb have been advising current officials.

Here are selected excerpts:

Has the administration simply grown impatient with its own approach?

Gottlieb: [W]e all had an expectation that at this point we'd be seeing sustained declines in new cases if we put those measures into place, and we haven't seen that. And so the reality is we're opening against the backdrop of much more spread than what we anticipated. ...

And I think it just increases the importance of what we call the case-based interventions, trying to put in place measures to track down individual cases, do contact tracing, do case isolation of people who are infected. If we don't lean heavily on those interventions against a backdrop of a lot of spread right now and we reopen the economy in that environment, we're likely to see renewed outbreaks.

Do you see serious efforts even to try to get where you think you need to be in terms of testing, in terms of contact tracing, in terms of these interventions you just described?

Gottlieb: I'm more confident about the testing. I think that we're ramping testing aggressively, in part because new technology is coming into the market. We're doing about 2 million tests a week right now. We just saw the approval of the first antigen-based tests. That's going to bring about 1.5 million tests per week capacity into the market within the next several weeks. ...

I think when it comes to the case-based interventions that isn't as readily available because there's a lot of political debate around the utility of that. You see a lot of governors going forward. But at a national level, we really haven't embraced those in a robust way that I would like to see.

Isn't there a case to be made for a kind of creative reopening whenever a company can figure out how to avoid employees in a crowd?

Slavitt: I think so. Look, I think everybody is in what must feel to them like a no-win situation. And so I think we all should acknowledge that our governors are doing the best that they possibly can in a trade off that's really difficult to make. ...

So we should be patient with our governors, adjusting, tinkering, doing a little bit of trial and error. But, boy, it sure would be nice if when they were doing that, they could instantly test because the difference between learning after two days that you got it wrong and 10 days that you got it wrong is fairly dramatic.

Listen to the full interview here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content