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For Want of a COVID-19 Test, the Shoe Was Lost

There are plenty of candidates for the "nail" in the COVID-19 response.

by Eric Holdeman / March 23, 2020

I may be either showing my age or my reading habits for recalling this old proverb about how one insignificant item can be the downfall of a much more important function or outcome. I can see some parallels to our current situation here in the United States when it comes to the ongoing crisis with coronavirus. 

Here is the proverb -- to be discussed afterward:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

There are plenty of shortages that come to mind that will bring people and organizations down.

Is the nail the failure to deploy COVID-19 tests in a timely manner to have early detection here in the United State? Not having good situational awareness on the progress of the disease has hampered our ability to recognize the threat and also respond appropriately.

Is the nail the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes, masks, gowns, gloves and face shields for all of our medical personnel responding to this event? Will lack of PPE lead to having hundreds and even thousands of nurses and doctors sidelined during what looks to be our greatest national medical emergency in our history?

Is the nail the lack of ventilators for treating people with the disease and unable to breathe on their own? A critical piece of equipment that is the last-ditch item in our medical arsenal to save people with pneumonia. 

Is the nail a lack of national leadership and early intervention into this crisis? Would competent leadership have limited the shortages of all the items above -- and thus worthy of being identified as "the Nail!" 

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