About That ‘Tremendous Testing Set Up’

March 13, 2020 8:46 a.m.
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You saw Trump’s remarks yesterday where he falsely claimed that the United States has a “tremendous testing set up” for those entering the country. In contrast, we have had a number of accounts from readers arriving back in the United States in recent days who have been concerned that not only are they not being tested, but they’re not even being screened for symptoms or possible exposure on their trips.

Here’s an example from TPM Reader AG who emailed overnight with about her arrival in the United States from Italy earlier this week.

I saw the video of Trump claiming “everyone is getting tested” upon entry to the US.  This is an outright lie (surprise).  I want to share my story about entering the country earlier this week.

I live part-time in Italy.  I traveled back to the US earlier this week. Apparently I was on one of the last flights out before all flights to & from were suspended.

There seems to be a drastic lack of coordination upon entry to the US.

On my first leg from Florence to Frankfurt everyone had to fill out a contact form in case anyone on the plane tested positive & they needed to contact you later.

On the Frankfurt to US flight they handed out info about safety & verbally assured us the plane had been scrupulously cleaned but to take precautions anyways. They also handed out antibacterial wipes on both flights. Then I got to the US.

I have a GOES card. I walked up & the machine took a photo & issued a slip w/ all my relevant info. No showing my passport or anything. I took the slip & looked around, a bit confused.  They had to know my country of origin. A GOES immigration officer, seeing my confusion & assuming it was because the entry process was so simple, said to me, “Great, right?  It’s so easy.’  That’s not the word I was thinking.

I got my luggage, walked to Customs, handed in the slip & they waived me through.   No one asked me anything.  

Lest you think I’m completely irresponsible, before I exited the airport I found an official & asked if I should self-quarantine as I’d been in Italy.  I said I felt fine, I was healthy, had no symptoms, didn’t know anyone who was sick or exposed but still, I was coming from Italy.  He said you’re fine & pointed towards the exit.

Two friends I ran into at the Italian airport were also heading to North America.  The friend who flew into Toronto was asked a bunch of questions about previous travel, country of origin, health, etc.  She & her daughter agreed to voluntarily quarantine themselves.  The 2nd friend entered the US via Detroit.  She told the immigration officer, “I’m coming from Italy.”  His reply?  “Welcome back.”  She, too, is voluntarily self-quarantining but without being asked.

It’s ironic to me because I actually felt safer in Italy.  They’re taking it seriously.  They issue new information all the time from scientific experts & the government.  There is universal healthcare so everyone can be tested & treated.  They offered no-cost testing & treatment for everyone, including visitors.  It’s illegal to fire anyone who cannot work due to illness.

Obviously the same doesn’t apply here.  I worry about sick people not getting treatment because they don’t have healthcare, or going to work sick because they can’t take a day off.  I also worry about the stunning lack of leadership from the top about protocols, screening, test availability, etc.

I don’t think the US is prepared for this. ‘Scary” is the word I’m thinking.  

It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

By the way, I am now self-quarantining.

Keep up your good work & godspeed during this difficult time.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.

COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).

IHME Projections Site (COVID-19 epidemic model which has become the canonical model for many states and hospitals.)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).

Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).

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