The Reasons for Delayed Testing

How narcissism has been a factor in the administration's response to Covid-19

Posted Mar 15, 2020

image by freakware from Pixabay
Source: image by freakware from Pixabay

How Is Leadership Failing Us? 

It has been widely accepted that the critical need at this time for combating the spread of COVID-19 is for more testing of individuals who have symptoms. However, in the US we have been behind other countries in our availability and use of screening tests. When the number of tests conducted is compared to the population size, the U.S. falls behind Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Israel, Taiwan, Italy, China, and South Korea. As of March 13th, the CDC reported that fewer than 20,000 people had been tested in the U.S. since the virus appeared, including both CDC labs and public health labs. South Korea is testing nearly 20,000 people each day. 

Reasons for Delayed Testing

Four basic reasons as to why the testing is so delayed in this country as compared with others have recently been explained by journalist Olga Khazan writing for The Atlantic. These include:

  1. Too much red tape is required to allow most U.S. labs to begin testing. Protocol calls for “Emergency Use Authorization” to be obtained before labs may use the tests which they already have, and such authorization takes weeks to obtain.
  2. Equipment shortages prevent hospitals as well as state and county public health labs to use some forms of the test. There are two basic types of COVID-19 tests, and the more commonly available “lab-developed” type requires equipment that is only available in academic research labs. Hospitals have begun asking the research labs to provide this equipment for hospital use.
  3. Even the research labs are delayed in making progress because they have been restricted in getting samples of the virus to study it and validate their tests.
  4. Failed leadership by the current administration has been characterized by downplaying the problem since the beginning and avoiding any responsibility for the ongoing problems.

The first three of these situations have been longer-term problems and arguably cannot be solely attributed to the current administration. A quick refresher on narcissistic traits, with which most of us are all very familiar by now, reminds us of several traits that have been critical to this response.

The Failure of Leadership as Related to Narcissism

  1. Persistent grandiosity, need to be seen as superior
    The President has told us that the U.S. has done a “great job” handling the Coronavirus outbreak. When you look at the facts noted above regarding the U.S. response versus the response of other countries worldwide, it is very hard to see his statement as credible.

    While at the CDC on Friday, Trump “explained” his presumed “knowledge” about the virus and his authority on the subject as follows: “I like this stuff. I really get it.” “Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that (practiced medicine) instead of running for President.” He has had no medical education and yet presents himself as having knowledge superior to that of public health experts. As a result, he has misinformed the public on numerous occasions.
  2. Lack of accountability
    “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”

    Also during the Friday visit to the CDC, Trump was asked about whether he takes any responsibility for the lack of available tests, or the dismantling of the White House Pandemic Response Team, which he initiated back in the Spring of 2018. He, of course, hired the person, John Bolton, who then fired the administrators who were calling for more proactive measures to deal with possible pandemic outbreaks. That he takes no responsibility is consistent with his prior behavior.
  3. Lack of empathy
    The primary concern of the administration is clearly the damage to the U.S. economy that this virus is causing. The administration’s concern in this matter is the risk to Trump’s re-election, as voters who previously supported him are now less likely to do so in 2020.  

    The loss of human life, some of which was and is preventable, seems low on this President’s list of priorities. 
  4. Blaming Others
    Part of the lack of empathy experienced by narcissists is their willingness to blame the victim, or anyone other than themselves for the problems that develop under their watch. Our President has said that the country is confronting a “foreign virus” simply because initial cases of the virus were discovered in Wuhan, China. In addition, he has labeled the virus “a hoax” put forth by Democrats as another means of denying any accountability for responding more quickly.
  5. Manipulative behavior
    This crisis has also been used by the administration to further the political agenda of funding a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Tuesday of this past week, the president proclaimed that, “We need the wall more than ever!” At that time, only 12 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in Mexico.

Conclusion

We are all dealing with the consequences of these attitudes and delays. Let’s recognize this behavior and see it for what it really is so that we don’t assume it to be harmless in the future. Perhaps such narcissism is entertaining when seen on a TV show. We’re now living with the realities of how harmful narcissism can be when it influences us on an international level. In terms of dealing with this situation, let's remember that we're all "In It Together."

References

Khazan, Olga (2020). The Four Key Reasons the US is So Behind on Coronavirus Testing. Published in The Atlantic, March 13, 2020.