The Washington Post reports on undetected coronavirus cases in Washington state as Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 3,000.
As the global death toll passed 3,000, South Korea said Monday it had confirmed 599 new cases, far higher than the daily tally reported in China. With 4,335 confirmed infections and at least 22 deaths, South Korea has the second-largest national caseload. However, it has tested more than 100,000 people, far more than most nations.
In the United States, where two deaths were reported over the weekend, tests have taken place at a far slower pace. A genetic analysis has suggested that the novel coronavirus has probably been spreading undetected for about six weeks in Washington state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday took steps to sharply expand testing.
More than half a dozen cases of the novel coronavirus — and the second death — were reported in the United States on Sunday, resulting in a total of more than 80 patients nationally, including many in quarantine.
As health officials in Florida, New York and Rhode Island all announced their state’s first or second likely cases of covid–19, the public response to the virus further reverberated across the country: Airlines suspended international flights, schools and major companies closed their campuses, and crowds raided empty supermarket shelves.
And it continues to spread internationally as Indonesia confirms first coronavirus cases.
Judd Legum pans The Mike Pence show in this morning’s email.
This situation will be changing rapidly. On Saturday, the FDA announced a new policy, “giving laboratories and hospitals around the country the go-ahead” to conduct their own tests. Pence said that 15,000 testing kits are en route to medical professionals, and the government just signed an agreement with a commercial vendor to produce 50,000 more.
So this week is likely to produce a spike in new confirmed coronavirus cases. Trump’s emphasis on the low numbers of confirmed cases, without mentioning the testing issues, is likely to spark confusion. The new cases will not necessarily be an indication that the coronavirus is rapidly spreading in the United States. But it will reflect a more accurate understanding of the current scope of the outbreak.
The cost of a broken system
Even once tests become available, people with symptoms may not want to get tested, fearing massive medical bills. This is the danger of a system with millions of people who are uninsured or underinsured.
Osmel Martinez Azcue returned to Miami from a business trip to China and developed flu-like symptoms. Concerned he may have contracted the coronavirus, he went to the hospital, where he was placed in a closed-off room. The hospital staff said he would need a CT scan to identify the coronavirus. But Azcue was concerned about his insurance coverage and asked to be tested for the standard flu first. He tested positive and was released.
Then he received a bill for $3,270. Under his insurance policy, he will be responsible for $1400.
Azcue has a so-called “junk” insurance plan that was made more broadly available when Trump rolled back some Obamacare regulations in 2018. In order to receive any reimbursement, he is required to “three years of medical records to prove that the flu he got didn’t relate to a preexisting condition.”
Azcue’s situation illustrates that the existence of these junk plans, and a large pool of uninsured Americans, puts everyone at risk — even people who are happy with their current plan. For millions, there are significant incentives to avoid diagnosis and treatment of the coronavirus.