Reason Roundup

Coronavirus Testing Finally Ramps Up, No Thanks to the Federal Government

Plus: margaritas and toilet paper, Playboy ends its print publication, and more...


Death by regulation. A Utah molecular diagnostics company is all set to produce 50,000 coronavirus tests per day, though its having trouble obtaining "reagent chemicals" that are necessary for a latter stage of the procedure, according to Deseret News.

Co-Diagnostics' COVID-19 test, which costs just $10 per patient and produces results in only 90 minutes, is already in use in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Israel, South Africa and Canada. But in the U.S. it had only been available for certain entities and research institutions, per guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It was not until Tuesday night that the FDA gave Co-Diagnostics emergency approval to distribute the test more generally to U.S. hospitals. Deseret News reports:

The company said U.S. shipments to date have been in accordance with the FDA's policy change on Feb. 29 that allows certified U.S. laboratories to use the Co-Diagnostics' test under certain conditions. As a result of the change announced Tuesday night by the FDA, the company's test kit will soon be available for use by a wide array of U.S. laboratories, without first requiring emergency use authorization.

Co-Diagnostics CEO Dwight Egan said the rule change puts his company in a position to have positive impacts on the critical need for COVID-19 testing capacity in Utah, the U.S. and around the world.

"The ramifications of this new FDA policy are significant for our company," Egan said in a statement. "This change will quickly afford Co-Diagnostics even more opportunities to serve the needs of laboratories nationwide, as we play an even larger role in responding to this pandemic.

"We applaud the FDA's decision to recognize the dire need for increased access to high-quality COVID-19 tests, and to adapt as the situation demands in light of a public health emergency."

It's smart for the biomedical company CEO to publicly thank the powerful agency that holds the keys to its fate. But no one else should be thanking the FDA. The botched rollout of COVID-19 tests is largely the fault of America's medical regulatory bureaucracy—specifically, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA.

BuzzFeed has a terrific interactive article detailing everything the CDC and FDA did wrong, from refusing to test people with coronavirus symptoms unless they returned from China or had been in proximity to someone who had, to insisting on a "slow and labor intensive" process. But as recently as February 26, the CDC told state and local officials that its own testing capabilities were "more than adequate," The Wall Street Journal reports.

People are quite literally going to die because the regulatory state was insufficiently adaptive to a crisis.


The coronavirus economy is wreaking havoc on local journalism, with Seattle's The Stranger and the D.C. area's Washingtonian already forced to lay off staff. Now COVID-19 has claimed another victim: Playboy will stop producing its print magazine for the rest of 2020, and probably forever.

"Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we've been having internally: the question of how to transform our U.S. print product to better suit what consumers want today, and how to utilize our industry-leading content production capabilities to engage in a cultural conversation each and every day, rather than just every three months," Playboy CEO Ben Kohn explained in a statement.

Playboy's brand is still going strong in the world of online entertainment, and will continue to do so. But the demise of its print publication closes a consequential chapter in journalism. While the magazine has been criticized in the #MeToo era for caring only about men's sexual appetites, it was positively liberatory when it first appeared in 1953, New York magazine argues:

Hard to imagine it now, but Playboy once felt forward-thinking and modern. Founded in 1953, it was a significant force in the loosening of anti-obscenity laws regarding the press. By the early 1960s, it was a huge success, soon expanding to open its namesake clubs all over the world. It also moved into TV with Playboy's Penthouse (later Playboy After Dark), a late-night talk show of sorts starring [Playboy founder Hugh] Hefner and an array of celebrity guests. The magazine peaked in the early 1970s at a circulation, breathtaking to see now, of 5.6 million copies a month. The magazine's licensing operation since then has put the signature rabbit logo on cocktail glasses, clothes, car accessories, and far more. Plus, of course, online porn.

Men (and some women) joked that they bought the magazine for the articles, even though the centerfold and its associated pictorials were, of course, the main draw. The articles were, indeed, pretty good, even if Playboy tended to pay extremely well for the second-tier writing of first-tier talents. (The Simpsons once showed a parody of the magazine, called "Playdude," bearing the cover line UPDIKE ON THE MARTINI.) But that's also a little unfair: Playboy published good work by Ursula K. Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates, and James Baldwin. At that part of the craft of magazine-making, Playboy was often great. Its lifestyle coverage, all that cocktails-and-great-stereo-equipment stuff, could be delicious as well.

Read Reason's 1986 interview with Christie Hefner, daughter of Hugh Hefner and former CEO of Playboy, here.



  • Are you there, God? It's me, even more rules that should be suspended forever:

  • On a less deregulatory note: Police boarded up an Ohio bar that refused to follow orders to close down.