Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A passenger wears a protective masks as she checks into an international flight at San Francisco International Airport on March 6, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

'Absolutely Chilling': Reports From Frontlines of Coronavirus Outbreak Reveal Roadblocks to Testing, Lack of Safety Protocols

"Recall that this refusal to test fits a pattern: This the same president who railed against attempts to count the dead in Puerto Rico post-Maria... Ignorance is a lethal political tool."

Julia Conley

As President Donald Trump drew harsh rebukes Friday for downplaying the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., accounts from people on the frontlines of the outbreak that's affected more than 100,000 people worldwide so far revealed a "chilling" lack of urgency from the U.S. government regarding the need to contain the spread of the respiratory illness.

On Thursday evening, Vice News journalist Julia Lindau returned from reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, where more than 4,600 people have tested positive for the illness—only to pass through U.S. Customs without being screened for potentially having come into contact with the virus.

"They didn't ask me where in Italy I went or if I came into contact with sick people," tweeted Lindau. "They didn't ask me anything."

Nearly 200 people have died of the coronavirus in Italy, where officials have set up a quarantine in two areas near Milan. Lindau later tweeted that she had not reported from inside the isolation zone and that she was following CDC guidance to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from Italy and other countries affected by the outbreak.

Lindau's report came as public health experts warned COVID-19 is likely to continue spreading through communities in the U.S. At least 33 cases have been reported in New York, and more than 200 have been detected in the U.S. so far, with the cases doubling in the last three days.

Across the country in California, the case of a nurse who self-quarantined after falling ill indicated on Thursday that the number of cases may have been vastly understated by officials. The nurse, who was not identified in a statement released by their union, the California Nurses Association, described how bureaucratic roadblocks have kept them from being tested for COVID-19 after coming into contact with a patient and later becoming sick.

"I'm awaiting 'permission' from the federal government to allow for my testing, even after my physician and county health professional ordered it," the nurse said in the statement.

The nurse treated a coronavirus patient after receiving proper training and protective gear, but later developed a fever and other COVID-19 symptoms. Because the nurse took proper precautions, the CDC told them this week that they didn't need coronavirus testing. The CDC later said the nurse would have to wait for a test because the agency is only testing a certain number of people each day.

"This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency!" the nurse said. "I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients. I am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that's preventing nurses from getting tested. That is a healthcare decision my doctor and my county health department agree with. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk."

Author Naomi Klein called the nurse's statement "absolutely chilling" and accused the administration of "actively suppressing the number of cases, which can only be happening for political reasons."

"Recall that this refusal to test fits a pattern: This the same president who railed against attempts to count the dead in Puerto Rico post-Maria and canceled a NASA program using satellite and aircraft instruments to monitor carbon emissions," Klein added. "Ignorance is a lethal political tool."

Economist David Rothschild echoed Klein's sentiments Friday regarding Lindau's case:

As demands mounted for transparency and for the White House to do everything in its power to gain control of the outbreak on Friday, Trump said in a press conference—with no evidence—that the U.S. has "stopped" the spread of COVID-19.

"I think we're in great shape," the president said, as he approved funding to combat the deadly virus Friday. "It came out of China, I heard about it, and we made a good move: We closed it down. We stopped it. It was a very early shutdown." 

"Donald Trump is lying, again," tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) in response to Trump's statement.

"Trump's relentlessly sunny characterization of the crisis, despite expert assessments and the reality of the situation, suggests the president is still not taking this seriously enough to sufficiently combat the spread of the virus," wrote Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair. "Trump can insist all he wants that he and his staff have the matter under control. But it won't be long before it becomes clear if he's telling the truth or not."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo