Seattle residents have volunteered for swabs from their nasal cavity to contribute the Seattle Flu Study tracking the spread of flu across the city. It turns out that this type of sample can also be used to analyze COVID-19.
Investigators then collected 2,500 samples and became embroiled in controversy when the New York Times reported that the team tested the samples for COVID-19 against federal and state guidelines. Local influenza study researchers, medical and non-medical, began analyzing COVID-19.
Representatives from the CDC and the FDA told the investigators to stop testing, but the institutional review committee for the flu study deemed it “unethical” not to test given the severity of the situation. In fact, they identified positive cases of COVID-19. Now the tests have stopped and questions must be asked in every way.
The Seattle Flu Study
Local evidence based on impending crisis
The Seattle Flu Study has been a local flu testing initiative based on a collaboration between UW Medicine, Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s, and Brotman Bay Institute. Led by the director of the study, Dr. Helen Chu, this effort apparently adjusted the course once the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.
They realized that of the 2,500 samples they had in their possession, they could begin to analyze to determine if local residents were exposed to the COVID-19 vaccine. They did this despite the fact that neither the laboratory nor the testing procedures were certified for such activity.
The tests identified local cases of COVID-19. As reported by local KOMO news, in one case, a high school student tested positive, then the school closed as a precaution. State and federal officials reportedly asked the local team to stop any testing due to lack of certification and authority.
However, the local ethics committee decided that it would be unethical not to evaluate given the seriousness of the situation. Since there was no other support to test and a pandemic seemed imminent, the local health administration had to make an ethical appeal.
The feds intervene
Apparently, people from the CDC and the FDA intervened again to stop the test, citing federal health care rules. The investigative team were medical and non-medical, apparently in violation of the rules on how this investigation should be conducted. The proper certifications for such an effort were not in place. The rules were not followed. Hence the evidence necessary to stop.
Local principal investigator for Seattle flu study team returns to action
Dr. Jay Shendure came to the defense of the Seattle Flu Study team. He confirmed the actions of the local effort and commented: “Our researchers are deeply dedicated to keeping our community safe. In the face of this unprecedented health threat, there are times when we all feel the need to move quickly in an effort to save lives. ”
Seattle / King County Public Health, supervisor of the local study, recently made a statement through spokesperson Keith Seinfeld who reported: “Overall, because the number of cases has increased so dramatically, Public Health no longer conducts case investigations or Routinely contracts for all COVID-19 positive cases.
Meanwhile, the Washington State is urging “patience,” as frustrated Washington residents want access to tests to determine if they have the virus or not. Many are scared and angry that there is no way to get tested because of the limited capacity in the state facing the deadliest outbreak in the United States, the New York Times reported.
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