Why Testing for COVID-19 Still Matters


This Straight No Chaser addresses why testing for COVID-19 still matters.

We’ve diagnosed 1 million Americans with COVID-19. The US is testing at a rate of 16.4 tests per 1,000 people (Comparatively, Spain and Italy – the countries with the second and third highest number of cases – have tested 22.3 and 29.7 tests per 1,000 people respectively). We’ve only tested 4 million citizens overall, representing 1.2% of the population. Simply put, we want to reengage.

Which Approach Will We Take?

There are two approaches to this.

  • We can essentially roll the dice and send citizens back into an unknown environment. Georgia did this, reopening without having met any of the criteria set by the governmental task force.
  • We can quantify the extent of disease and act accordingly.

This isn’t even about stay at home considerations at this point in the conversation. The goal here is to impart some intellectual honesty into the conversation. The goal is to make sure you understand that what happens in the fall is contingent on what happens now. There obviously is an equivalent of willful ignorance occurring at the federal level. Not only do we not have a sufficient number of effective tests, but there are ongoing shortages of the materials needed to run these tests.

There has been no serious implementation of the Defense Production Act that would compel business to create what’s needed. Without testing, we won’t detect new infections. We can’t engage in contact tracing. We can’t have intelligent discussions about when communities specifically need targeted isolation.

The Path Forward

The Rockefeller Foundation recommends expansion of the US testing capacity to 3 million tests per week for the next two months, followed by 30 million tests per week for the next six months. Yes, it’s calling for a marshaling of the nation’s resources to make this happen. It’s in the national public health and economic interest. Harvard has made a similar calling for ongoing testing.

Those would argue against vigorous testing at this point are not only being willfully ignorant but are contributing to the second wave of cases that will emerge in the fall. Forewarned is forearmed. If you live in one of the increasing places that are offering tests, please go get tested. It’s not just about you. Your apathy is directly contributing to the deaths of those most vulnerable. Know better. Do better. Be better.

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