The U.S. made “strategic errors” on coronavirus testing that led to the current shortage of COVID-19 tests, says television host and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, also known as Dr. Oz.
“We didn’t gear up like we should have, empowering industry to make these kits or taking them from other countries that were ahead of us,” he says. “And that’s why we didn’t get them in time.”
“If you ask in a quiet way why we don’t have enough tests, people in the know will acknowledge that this country had access to the kits and the technology to make the kits within a week of the virus being known,” says Oz, in a newly released interview, taped on Monday.
Technical delays, strict regulatory procedure around CDC-developed tests, and an initial lack of urgency from President Donald Trump contributed to the slow rollout of coronavirus tests in the U.S., the New Yorker reported. Observers have also pointed to challenges in gaining access to samples of the virus as well as a dearth of equipment.
A fierce debate has embroiled the U.S. over how effectively the country has responded to the coronavirus outbreak, as Trump staunchly defends the speed and adequacy of the response while critics say it continues to fall far short of what’s needed.
Oz criticized administrative and communication shortcomings but pointed to the unusually challenging circumstances and signs of an improved effort to combat the virus.
“There have definitely been snafus,” says Oz, who hosts the show “Dr. Oz” and teaches at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “But I got to say, if you knew exactly how to manage this virus and how difficult it would be and different from what the norm is to implement it, no one would imagine we would be here a month ago. Nobody.”
“You can be tough on Washington all you want — and, of course, they’ve had missteps and the messaging has been a bit confused at times,” adds Oz. “But directionally, the right things are happening.”
Oz made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Since 2009, Oz has hosted “Dr. Oz,” a daily talk show on personal and public health issues with millions of viewers. For nearly three decades, Oz has worked as a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City. In 2003, he founded HealthCorps, a nonprofit that helps teenagers take care of their physical and mental health.
Many physicians have criticized Oz for providing self-care and medical advice that they say does not pass scientific muster, calling on Columbia University to end its affiliation with him. Notably, he backed a study on green coffee bean weight loss pills that was later discredited.
As of Thursday morning, the number of coronavirus cases globally reached over 220,000 including over 9,400 in the U.S — according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths worldwide topped 9,000, including nearly 150 in the U.S.
Oz praised some top members of the White House task force charged with leading the U.S. response, among them Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases; Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States; and Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I think they’re very capable, very buttoned-up people,” he says. “The people that I’m interacting with, I trust.”