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Editorial: Step up your game
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Editorial: Step up your game

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Two years into this pandemic, it shouldn't be this hard to get tested for Covid.

Yet, over the past several days, we've seen huge lines at hospitals, empty store shelves and people desperate to find out if they had Covid, even as the number of infections skyrocket.

Early last week, Genesis Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kurt Andersen issued a statement, saying: "Our Lombard Street COVID-19 testing site in Davenport on Monday cared for more than 400 patients, who experienced exceedingly long lines and wait times reaching up to three hours." Things got so bad, he said, people berated and abused hospital personnel, even to the point of physical aggression.

We aren't alone in shortages, of course. Across the country, there are plenty of images of shockingly long lines of cars waiting for tests. You'd think we were in the first month of the pandemic, not in the second year.

So we understand the frustration, but we would echo the plea made by nearly three-dozen religious leaders in the Quad-Cities late last week who asked the public for patience; who asked that people not take out their frustrations on health care workers. They're not the cause of the shortages.

Last month, President Biden announced he'd ordered 500 million rapid tests to send to Americans. But we're still not sure when they'll be delivered. And, in an interview, the president conceded he'd wished he'd thought of ordering the tests a couple months ago.

We do, too. But the failure is not his alone.

State officials are on the front lines of this pandemic, even if some haven't acted much like it lately.

Months ago, Iowa shut down its Test Iowa sites, one of which was in Davenport. Test Iowa kits have been available at the Scott County Administrative Center, but people who went to there looking for them last week found they were out. (On Thursday, the county health department announced that they'd finally received a fresh batch.)

With hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves, Iowa shouldn't have a problem keeping the shelves stocked. In Illinois, meanwhile, Rock Island County Health Department officials say they'd love to get a state testing site located here. But as we talked to them last week, it didn't look likely.

We're not sure why Springfield can't get a site over here, but it's certainly needed.

We're hopeful the omicron wave that is driving this huge spike in cases is over soon. In South Africa, the number of cases spiked and has fallen relatively quickly.

But what if that doesn't happen here? And what if there's another variant that follows close behind? They can pop up pretty fast. Remember, it was only over the Thanksgiving holiday that omicron showed up on our radar screens.

There is good news. Early studies have said that while omicron is highly transmissible, it also is less likely to affect the lower lungs. That's a good thing. But as an opinion columnist for the New York Times noted last week, "it’s just luck that this highly transmissible variant appears to be less dangerous than other variants to those with prior immunity."

What if our luck runs out?

Hopefully, it won't. Some experts believe that omicron may be the pandemic's last gasp; that once it's passed, it might actually hasten the end of the pandemic.

Then again, some thought that about delta, too.

We've certainly got our fingers crossed that this is the beginning of the end. But counting on good fortune isn't how our state and federal governments should be playing this.

The paucity of tests is a pretty good sign that we're still not getting even the basics right. In some places, they aren't even sure what they have on hand. (Late last week, Florida officials admitted they found about a million unused, expired Covid tests at a warehouse. Let's hope Iowa and Illinois officials are checking their inventories.)

Adequate testing is still an important tool in fighting this virus. But two years in, our leaders still aren't up to the task.

Meanwhile, much of the world remains unvaccinated, raising the odds that new and unpredictable variants could emerge.

We need public officials at all levels to step up their game. In the meantime, we hope that Americans, including those in the Quad-Cities, will keep their heads while trying to get a hold of these tests. And let's hope the shelves are fully stocked soon.

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