We can only cope with the coronavirus crisis if we test on a much larger scale
When it comes to tackling the coronavirus, it becomes difficult to escape the reality that if we don’t test on a large scale, we may not be able to seriously tackle the epidemic. Unless we step up the testing, it will take a long time to bring our society back to a place of stability, a sense of normalcy.
Why, among all the other things that need to be done in regards to COVID-19, are the tests exceeding? For a few simple reasons. Unless we have extensive testing, we don’t know who has the virus. This means that, rather than quarantining the sick, we end up with social distancing and self-quarantine for every American. Guess which one is the most efficient and the least damaging to the US economy.
Without testing, we don’t know where the disease is spreading, so we can’t fight it effectively. Without testing, we can only guess how deadly and dangerous it is. Without large-scale testing, our entire community will be gripped by the worry of whether every person they meet has just put them at risk.
Yet about three months after the disease first appeared in China, months after testing was developed in Germany and, yes, here in the United States, any investigation into the situation will reveal that there is not enough tests available.
And it’s not just us who believe a bullet was dropped during testing. This week we hosted a video call with Rep Colin Allred (because, well, we’re doing mass social distancing rather than mass testing). He expressed his frustration at the failure of the acceleration of the tests. “Testing capacity and access to testing is our biggest challenge,” he said. “In many ways this has been a disaster for us at the federal level. We’ve ruined this from the start.
What happened was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to create a test instead of using the one already in use around the world, and it turned out that this test didn’t work. . Weeks after the process began, the federal government turned to private industry and not-for-profit researchers. Tests were successfully developed there, but then there were logistical problems to speed up production and acquire all the necessary materials. So we are weeks behind and we can only conclude that developing a test and increasing its production were not properly prioritized from the start.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s office on Wednesday announced a dramatic increase in testing capacity, saying the state had received some 15,000 swab kits from the CDC and that a weekly shipment of the same size would now reach the state. .
We appreciate the governor’s work here, but we’ll be honest – brutally. There are nearly 29 million people who live in Texas. We have to hear about swab kits and testing capacities in exponentially more than 15,000 a week.
What is needed is a rapid expansion of testing beyond county health units and large hospitals to include community clinics, corner pharmacies, private labs and doctor’s offices to give us the best insight. possible from where the disease is concentrated and where it spreads. This is what the World Health Organization calls “public health surveillance”.
John Hellerstedt, commissioner of health services for the Texas State Department, said an increase in public health surveillance testing may show officials where to focus their efforts and may help them understand how to encircle this virus. He’s right, and he’s right that we don’t have to test every person in the state to do it. But we have to test more people than we currently are to get ahead of this thing. We also need to help people ease their anxiety by letting them know if they have the virus. Increasing our testing capacity is crucial.
Allred told us “There has to be a revival” about this. We agree. The lack of available tests is a source of embarrassment. Until we dramatically ramp up the testing, we won’t be up to what is medically required. And until we reach a point where anyone who wants a test can be tested, we may not be reducing public anxiety. In short, if we step up testing quickly, it is a central test of leadership in this crisis.