The Daily Dose: America’s coronavirus testing capacity remains grim

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The coronavirus has been threatening the world for months. By the time it appeared on American shores, it wasn’t a surprise, though it was regretful. That’s why the paucity of testing kits currently available to the public is such a travesty. The situation shows no signs of improving despite promises from President Trump that millions would be available by this week. According to the article in The Atlantic, “After surveying of local data from across the country, we can only verify that 4,384 people have been tested for the coronavirus nationwide, as of today at 4 p.m. eastern. These data are as comprehensive a compilation of official statistics as currently possible.” The longer public health officials are unable to get a true read on the extent of the outbreak in America, the worse things will get. Question is, was this a systemic failure?

Sometimes in life, things aren’t what they seem. That appears to be true when it comes to shotgun phylogenetic analyses of SARS-CoV-2. The virus’s rapidly evolving family tree is created according to the appearance of different strains that arise from genetic mutations. Unfortunately, during an outbreak, facts are at a premium and a complete picture won’t begin to emerge until the dust settles. An article in Science explores how over-interpreting the appearances of mutations can be misleading.

The situation in China has improved significantly since the peak of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Nothing proves that more than the fact that President Xi Jinping has made his first visit to Wuhan, the city hit hardest during the epidemic. As per the Associated Press, “China’s president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began a sweeping nationwide travel ban and people worldwide braced for the possibility of recession. President Xi Jinping’s trip to the coronavirus’ epicenter of Wuhan — his first since the start of the outbreak — came as parts of his country return to normalcy, and was a sign of the diminishing threat the illness presents in China as it spreads west.” Less than a million of the country’s citizens are currently under quarantine.

When it comes to budget cuts, nothing is safe from President Donald Trump’s cost-cutting ways except weapons and his border wall. Unfortunately for exploratory space missions, they don’t belong to either category, though presumably an armed spacecraft belonging to a space force would. That’s why the Mars Odyssey program, NASA’s longest running mission focused on the red planet, is at risk of being defunded. As per, “While President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request clearly threatened NASA missions like the jet-borne telescope SOFIA, another potential shutdown was tucked inside the request. Proposed cuts to the 2001 Mars Odyssey program would bring its budget to a scant million dollars a year, effectively terminating the mission.”

The AP has assembled a stunning photo essay documenting how the world has been forced to adjust to and address the overhanging threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak. “Life in the time of coronavirus” offers a stark and touching look at citizen’s coping with a new reality filled with face masks, disinfectant fog, empty grocery shelves, hazmat suits, and unspeakable agonies.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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