In 1982, Steve Jackson Games (SJG) created an Illuminati card game inspired by the 1975 book “The Illuminatus! Trilogy” by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. The game has ominous secret societies that compete with one another […]
If only the Problem that is causing this Reaction had an easy Solution. Oh, wait! There is! It’s called “lab-grown meat” and it’s being served up by Bill Gates and his corporate cronies.many who are relieved to hear of the impending collapse of the factory food processing system that has so utterly disconnected us from the real sources of our food.
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The first step is to end the lockdown and let businesses reopen and people go back to work. Congress must then begin challenging monetary policy by passing the Audit the Fed bill.
A number of U.S. states,1 along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,2 are now recommending that Americans wear face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. A judge in Harris County, Texas, however, took this recommendation a step further, ordering residents to wear face masks in public for 30 days or be faced with a fine or jail time.3
Judge Lina Hidalgo made the announcement April 22, 2020 — ironically, the same day that plans were released to close a temporary hospital intended to treat COVID-19 patients “because it wasn’t needed.”4
“These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger — and rightfully so,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wrote in a Twitter message.5 Patrick was among those who pushed back against Hidalgo’s order, calling it an overreach driven by “hypocrisy and hysteria.” In a statement, Patrick wrote:6
“On the same day Harris County Commissioner’s Court plans to close the $60 million-dollar pop-up hospital at NRG Park, because it wasn’t needed, Judge Lina Hidalgo orders anyone over the age of 10 to wear a mask in public. Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach.”
Backlash Over ‘Draconian’ Mask Order
Under Hidalgo’s initial order, residents over 10 years old faced a fine of $1,000 and 180 days in jail if they failed to wear a face covering in public at all times except while drinking, eating or exercising. A day later, violating the mask order was said to be punishable only by the fine, but not jail time.7
Even a Houston-based police officers’ union was appalled by the “draconian measures” Hidalgo was imposing and contacted the Attorney General’s office to find out whether the order was legal.
Police also tweeted that, while they agreed everyone should wear a mask while in public, asking police officers to enforce it would backfire, damaging their relationship with the community and taking officers away from violent crimes:8
“Houston Police Officers are already stretched entirely too thin during the Covid19 pandemic. Violent crime is up this year (murders up by 35%), property crime is up (burglaries by nearly 30%) … We do not have time to be pawns in Hidalgo’s game of attempting to control the actions of law abiding, tax paying individuals of our community.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw also spoke out against the move, stating that while guidelines for wearing masks in confined spaces should be emphatically promoted, “commonsense guidelines” should not lead to “unjust tyranny.”9
In the end, five days after Hidalgo issued her edict, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott overruled her, saying his authority supersedes hers and that no one was going to be penalized anywhere in Texas for not wearing a mask:10
“… local officials cannot impose penalties on residents who violate rules about wearing masks in public … We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask … However, it’s not a mandate. And we make clear that no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine. My executive order, it supersedes local orders, with regard to any type of fine or penalty for anyone not wearing a mask.”
Judge Sued Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Mask Order
Even before the governor superseded her ruling, Hidalgo’s mask order was facing legal challenges, including a court petition by Dr. Steven Hotze, which stated, “If Judge Hidalgo’s Order is not declared unconstitutional and void, once this virus passes, the rights we are afforded under the Texas Constitution will forever be damaged.”11
“The heavy hand of local government will fine individuals who refuse to wear a mask, fail to wash their hands, get within 6 feet of another, or inadvertently touch their face,” the petition continued.12
The suit — which Hotze withdrew13 after the governor’s ruling — alleged that Hidalgo’s order exceeded her authority by implementing orders that are more restrictive than those put forth by the state’s governor.
It also stated that Hidalgo’s powers are limited to those outlined by the Disaster Act, which does not include a threat of fines for not wearing masks, washing hands or staying 6 feet away from others.14 Besides Hotze, other citizens voiced their opposition with a public protest in Harris County — where more than 4 million people reside.
In the case of Hidalgo’s mask order being punishable by a fine, the backlash stemmed not so much from the request to wear masks in public, but by the order making it a crime not to do so. This isn’t unique to Harris County, Texas, though.
Many other countries, states and counties have similar measures in place, including Humboldt County, California, where anyone who violates the order to wear face coverings in public could be fined $50 to $1,000 and/or face 90 days in jail for each day the offense occurred.15 In Salem, Massachusetts, you can also be fined for not wearing a mask in public, including the common areas inside an apartment building.16
In Hawaii, customers and employees at essential businesses are required to wear cloth face coverings, in addition to staying 6 feet away from others. Those who violate the rules could be fined up to $5,000 or face a year in prison — or both,17 according to Gov. David Ige’s order.18 In other states, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, residents may be denied entry to essential businesses if they refuse to wear a mask.
And, in Germany, masks are required in public spaces as business closures have been loosened, with fines of €15 ($16) to €5,000 ($5,415) for violations, depending on the state.19
Are Masks Useful for Reducing COVID-19 Risk?
In many countries that have implemented widespread use of masks in public, COVID-19 cases have remained under control. The U.S. lagged behind in this regard, and as recently as February 29, 2020, as COVID-19 cases accelerated, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted a message stating, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!”20
Adams went on to say that masks are “not effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them when caring for patients, it puts them and communities at risk” — statements that blatantly contradict one another.
Admittedly, even public health leaders are not in agreement as to whether wearing masks is useful. April 6, 2020, the World Health Organization issued its recommendations, saying:21
”There is limited evidence that wearing a medical mask by healthy individuals in the households or among contacts of a sick patient, or among attendees of mass gatherings may be beneficial as a preventive measure.
However, there is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can prevent them from infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Medical masks should be reserved for health care workers.”
Persons with symptoms should “wear a mask, self-isolate and seek medical advice as soon as they feel unwell,” the guidelines continue. On the other hand, the same week, the CDC recommended all Americans wear masks whenever they are in public22,23 — and research suggests doing so may help reduce virus transmission.
In 2012, researchers from the University of Michigan studied whether the use of face masks and hand hygiene reduced rates of influenza and influenza-like illness in 1,178 students living in university residence halls.24
The students were assigned to one of three groups: face mask and hand hygiene, face mask only or control group during the study. During Weeks 3 to 6 of the study, a 75% reduction in influenza-like illness was noted among the students using hand hygiene and wearing masks in residence halls.25
Further, researchers with Cambridge University tested common household materials for their effectiveness as masks by exposing them to different sized particles. Surgical masks were most effective, but all of the materials, ranging from a dish towel to a cotton T-shirt to a scarf, offered some protection even against very small bacteriophages that are even smaller than coronavirus.26
The study, which was published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, concluded that even homemade masks are better than no protection at all.27 Masks can also help to lower the “dose” of virus you receive if you come in contact with an infected person.
Virologist Peter Kolchinsky tweeted that the public should know that dose matters with COVID-19 exposure. “Masks can help anyone,” he wrote, “reducing amount of virus released (even by breathing) or taken in,” adding that your immune system is more effective if the infection starts with a low dose.28
The Czech Republic Promotes Mask Order Using Positivity
In The Czech Republic, wearing masks in public has been required for the whole country since March 18, 2020 — including for nudists, who now have to cover their faces with a mask. While citizens may face a fine for violating the order, a “reprimand” or warning may be issued instead.29
It’s interesting to note that the Czech Republic mask movement was kicked off by social media influencer Petr Ludwig, who made a video about the importance of wearing masks.30 He pointed out that hospitals had reached out on social media asking for homemade masks to fill in gaps of mask shortages, and people responded by not only making masks for health care workers, but also for the public.
“Mask trees” emerged, on which people would hang homemade masks in public places where anyone in need could pick one up. They were made with bright colors and patterns, distinguishing them from the surgical masks being prioritized to health care workers. Meanwhile, social media and celebrities got involved, urging people to share the information, take a selfie wearing a mask and use the hashtag #masks4all.
The movement quickly spread, Ludwig said, and in The Czech Republic the motto for wearing masks centers on kindness: “Your mask protects me, my mask protects you.” Now, if you’re not wearing a mask in public, you’re considered to be anti-social and putting others at risk.
In the U.S., however, many are concerned that mask wearing may be the first of many new government “guidelines” turned into mandates punishable by fines or jail time — a trend being seen across the globe.
First Mandatory Vaccine Law for Coronavirus Passed
In Denmark, an emergency coronavirus law unanimously passed, giving the government an unprecedented level of power that will remain in force until March 2021. Speaking with news outlet The Local, Jens Elo Rytter, a law professor at Copenhagen University, called the legislation the “most extreme since the Second World War.”31
Under the new measures, Danish citizens will be required to comply with orders from public health authorities or face punishments and prosecution. The law gives the Ministry of Health power to force vaccination, for instance, as well as requires citizens to be tested for COVID-19 and prohibits those who don’t comply from accessing public transportation, supermarkets, hospitals, nursing homes and shops.
A measure to allow police to enter private homes without a court order if a COVID-19 infection is suspected was dropped due to opposition. In passing what is now the first mandatory vaccine law for COVID-19, Denmark’s parliament is said to have rushed through its passage, and only 95 of 179 Danish MPs were present for the vote.32
At least 70 COVID-19 vaccines are under development,33 each of them likely attempting to be fast-tracked to the market.34 Under normal circumstances, a vaccine may take five to 10 years to be developed, and pushing rapid progress comes with significant safety concerns.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the construction of factories to produce seven vaccine candidates,35 with plans for the winning vaccine to be produced en masse, to vaccinate the entire world’s population.
Draconian censorship is in full swing again, this time around the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Just about anything that questions or contradicts the biased edicts of the World Health Organization is now being blocked, taken down or tagged as fake news on social media platforms.
Twitter Suspends Biotech Company
For example, April 26, 2020, Twitter suspended the account of the publicly traded biotech company AYTU BioScience.1 Its crime? Sharing information about its novel UV light therapy for COVID-19, which it is developing in collaboration with Cedars-Sinai medical center.
Expedited Food and Drug Administration approval is being sought for the technology, which involves administering “intermittent ultraviolet (UV-A) light inside a patient’s trachea.”2
Shortly before Twitter suspended the company’s account, YouTube also removed a video demonstrating how the technology works. Both YouTube and Twitter claim AYTU violated terms of service — which now apparently include sharing factual and truthful information that might jeopardize the surveillance capitalists’ agenda to control and vaccinate the entire world against SARS-CoV-2.
NewsGuard Is a True News Blocker
Similarly, NewsGuard recently classified mercola.com as fake news because we reported the SARS-CoV-2 virus as potentially having been leaked from the biosafety level 4 laboratory in Wuhan City, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
NewsGuard intern Nina Zweig (edited by deputy editor John Gregory) referred to my February 4, 2020, article, “Novel Coronavirus — The Latest Pandemic Scare,” in which I stated:
“In January 2018, China’s first maximum security virology laboratory (biosecurity level 4) designed for the study of the world’s most dangerous pathogens opened its doors — in Wuhan.3,4 Is it pure coincidence that Wuhan City is now the epicenter of this novel coronavirus infection?
The year before, Tim Trevan, a Maryland biosafety consultant, expressed concern about viral threats potentially escaping the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory,5 which happens to be located just 20 miles from the Wuhan market identified as ground zero for the current NCIP outbreak.6“
According to NewsGuard,7 “There is no evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of the outbreak, and genomic evidence has found that the virus is ‘96% identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus.'”
Clearly, NewsGuard doesn’t understand or adhere to the definition of fake news, considering multiple government sources are reportedly looking into the virus’ origin, including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Fox News quotes saying:8
“It should be no surprise to you that we have taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. I would just say at this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don’t know for certain.”
According to an April 5, 2020, article9 in Daily Mail, British government officials are also considering the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 leaked from the Wuhan facility, stating the possibility of this “is no longer being discounted.”
Interestingly, an April 16, 2020, report10 by CNN reveals the censorship of articles mentioning the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 may have leaked from the Wuhan BSL4 facility appears to come from China, which means NewsGuard, Facebook and others are functionally protecting Chinese interests and inhibiting scientific inquiry.
Facebook’s Fake Fact-Checking
Questioning the origins of SARS-CoV-2 will also land you in “Fakebook jail.” As reported in investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s news analysis, “Facebook’s Dangerously Fake ‘Fact Checking'”:11
“I have often spoken of disingenuous ‘fact checking’ efforts conducted by conflicted third parties who are actually trying to shape public opinion and control the information the public can access …
A recent example is a popular documentary by Epoch Times about the possible link between Covid-19 and a research lab in Wuhan, China. The documentary formed no conclusions and the theories it discussed had not been disproven.
However, Facebook intervened to punish me and others who dared to share this factually accurate documentary on Facebook. Without warning, the social media company notified us that our pages were being throttled or shown to fewer people … Facebook also said that people visiting our pages would be told we share fake news.”
Would it surprise you in the least to learn that the “fact check” basis for this censorship is an article written by a researcher who works with the Wuhan lab? Me neither. Like NewsGuard, Facebook has placed itself as judge and jury over what lines of thinking people are allowed to engage in, and this tactic simply has no place in a free and democratic society. So, what does that tell you about these organizations and platforms?
YouTube CEO Vows to Ban Content Contradicting WHO
In an April 23, 2020, article,12 Business Insider reported statements made by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, wife of Google product director Dennis Troper. She too spits in the proverbial face of Americas freedom of speech:
“Wojcicki says the platform will ban content peddling fake or unproven coronavirus remedies. In an interview with CNN, she also suggested that video that ‘goes against’ WHO guidance on the pandemic will be blocked …
For example, she said, content that claimed vitamin C or turmeric would cure people of COVID-19 would be ‘a violation of our policy’ and removed accordingly. She continued: ‘Anything that goes against WHO recommendations would be a violation of our policy …'”
Among the censored YouTube videos is a viral video13 by Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, co-owners of Accelerated Urgent Care in Bakersfield, California, in which they questioned the logic behind California’s stay-at-home order. The video had garnered 5 million views by the time it was taken down. In the video, Erickson pointed out that there’s:
“… a 0.03 chance of dying from COVID in the state of California. Does that necessitate sheltering in place? Does that necessitate shutting down medical systems? Does that necessitate people being out of work?”
Erickson also criticized the fact that mortality statistics are being skewed by counting people who die from other conditions as COVID-19 deaths.
“When someone dies in this country right now, they’re not talking about the high blood pressure, the diabetes, the stroke. They’re saying ‘Did they die from COVID?’” Erickson said in the video.
“We’ve been to hundreds of autopsies. You don’t talk about one thing, you talk about comorbidities. ER doctors now [say] ‘It’s interesting when I’m writing about my death report, I’m being pressured to add COVID. Why is that?”
By banning anything that contradicts the World Health Organization’s recommendations, Wojcicki asserts that the WHO is infallible, which it clearly is not. There’s no shortage of examples proving WHO has been wrong on many occasions, and should not be relied upon as the premier, let alone sole, source of information and medical instruction.
The WHO is beyond conflicted, and because of its existing funding fails to complete its initial mandate to promote the attainment of “the highest possible level of health” by all peoples.
The WHO Has Long Been Criticized for Its Bias
For example, June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic of novel influenza A (H1N1).14 A vaccine was rapidly unveiled, and within months, cases of disability and death from the H1N1 vaccine were reported in various parts of the world.
In the aftermath, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) questioned the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. In June 2010, PACE concluded “the handling of the pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), EU health agencies and national governments led to a ‘waste of large sums of public money, and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public.'”15
Specifically, PACE concluded that the drug industry had influenced the organization’s decision-making.16 Another example is presented in the 2019 report17 “Corrupting Influence: Purdue & the WHO,” produced by U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), which concluded Purdue Pharma had influenced WHO’s opioid guidelines.18,19
The WHO was also heavily criticized for its lack of leadership during the 2013 through 2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.20 Two separate reports published in 2015 highlighted the WHO’s failures, one issued by a panel of independent experts commissioned by WHO itself,21 and one by an independent group of 19 international experts convened by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Harvard Global Health Institute.22
The LSHTM and Harvard Global Health Institute experts pointed out that the WHO has lost so much trust that radical reforms will be required before it will be able to assume an authoritative role.
US Suspends Funding to the WHO Pending Investigation
Considering the fact that nothing has actually changed within the organization since then, it’s not inconceivable that the WHO’s COVID-19 pandemic response is questionable. The drug industry has no lesser influence over WHO today than it did in 2009, and the Gates Foundation’s influence has only grown since then too.
April 7, House Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., and 20 additional co-sponsors introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. to defund the WHO “until its embattled Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus resigns and the United Nations-backed organization is investigated over its treatment of China during the coronavirus pandemic,” Fox News reported.23
Republican Sen. Rick Scott, Florida, is also calling for a congressional committee to investigate the WHO. According to Scott:24
“When it comes to coronavirus, the WHO failed. They need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping Communist China cover up a global pandemic. We know Communist China is lying about how many cases and deaths they have, what they knew and when they knew it — and the WHO never bothered to investigate further.”
A week later, President Trump announced the U.S. will temporarily suspend its funding to the WHO while the White House investigates the organizations handling of the pandemic.25
Gates Funds Not-So-Independent Defense
Remember Mark Lynas? Lynas is a Monsanto ambassador26 and well-established shill for the GMO industry27,28 who in recent years has started defending vaccines as well, suggesting that anti-GMO and anti-vaccine groups are closely linked. I wrote about this evolving trend in my 2018 article, “Strange Bedfellows: GMO and Vaccine Partnerships.”
In an April 20, 2020, article29 for Cornell Alliance for Science, Lynas tries to debunk the “Top 10 current conspiracy theories” on COVID-19. The second conspiracy theory on his lists is “Bill Gates as scapegoat.” How convenient, considering Cornell Alliance for Science is funded by the Gates Foundation.30
Third on the list is the claim that “The virus escaped form a Chinese lab.” As discussed above, government officials in the U.S. and U.K. are not discounting this possibility, so why is Lynas? Could it be because the Gates Foundation funds the WHO, which in turn protects China?
Also on his list is the claim that “COVID death rates are inflated,” which he says “has no basis in fact.” Is that so? The CDC no longer requires doctors to do testing in order to confirm that a patient is in fact infected with SARS-CoV-2 or died from COVID-19. The numbers now include “suspected” and “assumed” cases. How could this not result in an overestimation of the problem?
Censorship Breeds Distrust
Censorship inevitably leads to public distrust. There’s no need for censorship when you have nothing to hide and are willing to address shortcomings. Ninety percent of news media is controlled by six corporations. As a result, the vast majority of what you read, see and hear is already part of a carefully orchestrated narrative created and controlled by special interest groups.
When you tack on censorship by internet platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, your chances of being grossly underinformed or misinformed are exponentially magnified. The end result is a Truman-esque fictitious reality where most of what you believe to be true is in fact false.
Inadequate testing for COVID-19 across the U.S. in the early stages of the pandemic has been blamed for allowing widespread transmission of the virus to occur, during a time when it potentially could have been contained without the need for extensive shutdowns.
In January 2020, German scientists developed the first diagnostic test for COVID-19. In early February 2020, the World Health Organization shipped about 250,000 tests to 159 laboratories around the world.1
Rather than use the WHO test, the U.S., under the direction of the CDC and FDA, decided to create its own, as it had done with tests during past outbreaks of Ebola and Zika. On February 4, when there were only about a dozen confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., the FDA approved the U.S. COVID-19 test, and the CDC shipped 90 of them to state public health labs days later.2
The tests, however, led to inconclusive results that caused further delays in getting accurate COVID-19 diagnoses. The CDC has been tight-lipped about what caused the testing glitches, but an investigation by The New York Times reported that the CDC’s tests were contaminated with coronavirus.3
‘Lack of Expertise,’ Protocol Violations Led to Tainted Tests
According to the Times, “sloppy laboratory practices” at the CDC rendered the first U.S. coronavirus tests ineffective, with two of the three CDC laboratories creating the test kits violating their manufacturing standards. When the FDA sent in an official to assess the issue, he noted an “astonishing lack of expertise in commercial manufacturing.”4 The Times reported:
“Problems ranged from researchers entering and exiting the coronavirus laboratories without changing their coats, to test ingredients being assembled in the same room where researchers were working on positive coronavirus samples, officials said.
Those practices made the tests sent to public health labs unusable because they were contaminated with the coronavirus, and produced some inconclusive results.”
In March, Axios also reported that Timothy Stenzel, the FDA’s director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, visited a CDC lab in Atlanta and raised concerns about inappropriate procedures and potential contaminants.5
The CDC had previously stated that a manufacturing problem with one of the reagents had caused the test failures, but FDA official Stephanie Caccomo stated, “CDC did not manufacture its test consistent with its own protocol.”6 When the problems initially surfaced and the CDC manufactured new tests, labs had to send samples to the CDC for testing, which led to delays of up to 48 hours.7
In March, The New York Times summed up U.S. testing failures as “the lost month” — a time between late January and early March 2020 during which widespread testing may have changed the course of the pandemic in the U.S.,8 and said of the latest investigation:
“The F.D.A. confirmed its conclusions … after several media outlets requested public disclosure of its inquiry, which assuredly is part of a larger federal investigation into the C.D.C. lab irregularities by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Forced to suspend the launch of a nationwide detection program for the coronavirus for a month, the C.D.C. lost credibility as the nation’s leading public health agency and the country lost ground in ways that continue to haunt grieving families, the sick and the worried well from one state to the next.
To this day, the C.D.C.’s singular failure symbolizes how unprepared the federal government was in the early days to combat a fast-spreading outbreak of a new virus and it also highlights the glaring inability at the onset to establish a systematic testing policy that would have revealed the still unknown rates of infection in many regions of the country.”
UK’s Imported Tests Were Also Contaminated
At the end of March 2020, Eurofins Scientific, a Luxembourg-based testing laboratory, informed U.K. government labs that “probes and primers” for COVID-19 tests would be delayed because they were found to be contaminated with traces of coronavirus.9 It’s unclear how the tests became contaminated, but Eurofins stated that other COVID-19 test suppliers had also encountered contaminated test supplies.
In the CDC’s case, The Washington Post said they had separately confirmed that FDA officials believe the CDC violated its own laboratory practices and in so doing caused the test kits to become contaminated:10
“The cross contamination most likely occurred because chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material. The scientists also said the proximity deviated from accepted procedures and jeopardized testing for the virus.
… The troubled segment of the test was not critical to detecting the novel coronavirus, experts said. But after the difficulty emerged, CDC officials took more than a month to remove the unnecessary step from the kits, exacerbating nationwide delays in testing, according to an examination of federal documents and interviews with more than 30 present and former federal scientists and others familiar with the events.
… This account confirms for the first time the contamination’s role in undermining the test and the CDC’s failure to meets its lab standards.”
FDA Red Tape Caused Further Testing Delays
The CDC’s production of contaminated tests caused serious delays at a crucial point in the disease outbreak. “It was just tragic,” Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told The Times. “All that time when we were sitting there waiting, I really felt like, here we were at one of the most critical junctures in public health history, and the biggest tool in our toolbox was missing.”11
Adding to the problem, the FDA also prevented commercial laboratories from producing their own tests in the early stages. While laboratory-developed tests typically do not require FDA preapproval, the declared public health emergency triggered rules that required labs to receive an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA in order to roll out tests for COVID-19.
As mentioned, this meant labs weren’t allowed to develop tests until late February. The Alliance for Natural Health USA reported:12
“According to former FDA officials, in previous outbreaks EUAs could be obtained in a matter of days; but during this outbreak, the application process reportedly became so complicated it took weeks to receive the authorization. Initially, labs were not allowed to begin testing until they got approval from the FDA, even if the lab had confirmed internally that the test worked.
The FDA later relaxed this requirement, allowing certain accredited labs to begin testing as they awaited approval for an EUA — but not before weeks had passed when hospitals and labs were not able to use accessible COVID-19 tests.”
Some labs even developed at-home tests for COVID-19, but the FDA said it had not approved any at-home tests, leading companies to pause distribution and even destroy samples that had already been collected. South Korea, which has been producing 400,000 COVID-19 tests per week, has also been shipping the tests to U.S. states and private labs, but gaining FDA approval on the tests remains a significant hurdle.
Why Accurate COVID-19 Testing Is so Important
At the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data, researchers highlighted that in order to understand how COVID-19 is progressing, data on testing is essential. It’s the number of confirmed cases that informs the world about the development of the pandemic, but without testing data, you can’t have a clear number of confirmed cases. They report in a March 2020 publication:13
“It [Testing] is one of our most important tools in the fight to slow and reduce the spread and impact of the virus. Tests allow us to identify infected individuals, guiding the medical treatment that they receive. It enables the isolation of those infected and the tracing and quarantining of their contacts. And it can help allocate medical resources and staff more efficiently.
In addition, testing for COVID-19 also informs our understanding of the pandemic and the risks it poses in different populations. This knowledge is important if we are to properly assess the interventions that should be implemented, including very costly interventions such as social distancing and the shutdown of entire regions and industries.”
In other regions, like Hong Kong and Singapore, officials didn’t implement widespread shutdowns until recently, in large part due to early and aggressive testing.
Singapore, which had conducted about 12,800 tests per million population by April 13, 2020, and Hong Kong, which had performed 13,800 tests per million, had two of the highest testing rates worldwide at that time. They avoided widespread shutdowns initially, quarantining only those who tested positive along with their close contacts.14
When an uptick in cases occurred in Hong Kong in late March, enhanced restrictions were put in place, and as they begin to go down restrictions are likely to be loosened. This “suppress and lift” strategy15 may prove useful in the long run, but its effectiveness depends, again, on widespread testing. As it stands, however, many countries are not providing clear and complete data on testing.
There are two types of tests now available in the U.S. — one, known as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, uses a nasopharyngeal swab; and the other, a serological test, uses blood samples to detect COVID-19 antibodies. Differences exist in rates of false positives and false negatives among the different tests, adding further confusion.
Checklist for Best Practices in COVID-19 Testing
According to Our World in Data, not only is widespread testing needed, but the data must be able to be accurately interpreted. The site names Iceland and Estonia as two countries that are going above and beyond to provide detailed and current COVID-19 testing data, but most countries are not.
“For citizens to trust and understand the published data and for countries to learn from each other, it is crucial that every country provides the data on testing in a clearly documented way,” the site states. Toward that end, they recommend the following checklist as a form of guidance:16
Countries need to first keep track of COVID-19 testing data and then make it easily accessible — “Currently, the available data is often not easy to find, because some countries are releasing figures at unpredictable intervals in ad-hoc locations (including social media or press conferences).”
Clarify “performed tests” or “individuals tested” — Because an individual may be tested more than once, the number of performed tests is not the same as the number of individuals tested.
Clarify whether figures include negative test results and/or the number of tests that have pending results.
Clarify whether the figures include all tests conducted in the country — “Figures reported by countries may only be partial if not all laboratories are reporting to the central authority.”
Clarify if all regions and laboratories within a country are submitting data on the same basis — “In order to assess the reliability of aggregate testing data, it needs to be clear if heterogenous data [are] being summed together. The U.S. COVID Tracking Project, for instance makes it clear that their U.S. totals combine data for tests performed and individuals tested, depending on which is reported by individual states.”
Clarify what period the published figures refer to — “The key question that needs to be answered is whether the figures published at some date (attempt to) include all tests conducted up to that date.”
Address any issues that affect the comparability of data over time — “The Netherlands, for instance, makes it clear that not all labs were included in national estimates from the start. As new labs get included, their past cumulative total gets added to the day they begin reporting, creating spikes in the time series.”
Clarify typical testing practices in the country — “For instance, how many tests does a case investigation require? What are the eligibility criteria to be tested? Are health workers, or other specific groups, being routinely retested?”
Address any information that may be lost in translation — “Many countries report testing data in multiple languages — this helps disseminate the information to a broader audience, whilst helping prevent misinterpretations.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, multiple hurdles still stand in the way of COVID-19 testing, from lack of supplies, like swabs and machines needed to run the tests, to labs losing revenue as fewer elective tests are being performed, yet being expected to ramp up COVID-19 tests, which have low reimbursement rates.
COVID-19 tests may also not be sensitive enough and could lead to false negatives, while, as of April 10, 2020, the U.S. also lacked reliable tests to check people for COVID-19 immunity.17 Many experts agree, however, that widespread testing is needed in order for the U.S. to loosen shutdowns, reopen its economy and get back to a sense of normalcy.
By Anna Von Reitz
By Anna Von Reitz
Bar attorneys are at a disadvantage, but you have options — lots of them. I just reviewed the situation in an article yesterday called: “Help for Attorneys — Yes.”