As the novel coronavirus snaked its way across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early February distributed 200 test kits it had produced to more than 100 public health labs run by states and counties nationwide.
Each kit contained material to test a mere 300 to 400 patients. And labs, whether serving the population of New York City or tiny towns in rural America, apparently received the same kits.
The kits were distributed roughly equally to locales in all 50 states. That decision presaged weeks of chaos, in which the availability of COVID-19 tests seemed oddly out of sync with where testing was needed.
A woman in South Dakota with mild symptoms and no fever readily got the test and