By Sally Pipes
Optimism is in short supply as the coronavirus pandemic grows deadlier by the day. COVID-19 has taken thousands of lives around the world and upended nearly every aspect of daily life.
But there is at least one bright spot in this global public health emergency. That’s the astounding speed with which private firms have begun tackling the problem. While federal regulators have exacerbated the crisis at seemingly every turn, private firms have rolled out promising new therapies and technologies that could help mitigate the pandemic—and save lives.
The stats are grim. In less than three months, the virus has surged from Wuhan, China, to infect more than 430,000 people across 168 countries worldwide, according to official counts as of the morning of March 25. Many more people may have the virus and not know it. More than 18,000 people have died.
The federal government’s efforts to combat the pandemic have been—less than stellar. Early test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were flawed and unusable. Federal regulators initially refused to use tests from the World Health Organization and other foreign countries. And the Food and Drug Administration has been slow—slow to review and approve new tests developed by private labs, slow to relax regulations on the production of new ventilators, and downright hostile to potential at-home tests for COVID-19.
Private firms, by contrast, have provided a rare source of hope in the midst of the pandemic.