Experts know testing is a cornerstone of our COVID-19 response. President Donald Trump knows this, too. That’s why everyone he sees in the White House is tested regularly. We can’t beat COVID without testing.
Despite its importance, as a country we consider testing a temporary fix, just a bridge to a treatment or especially a vaccine. We seem prepared to wait months or even years for a vaccine to surface. But there is so much we do not yet know. A potential vaccine could have intolerable side effects, result in only temporary immunity or face low uptake among many Americans. Such great uncertainty calls for more reliable, immediate solutions. While hoping for the best, we must prepare for the worst.
What is the path forward? Is there a solution — not a giant leap, but rather a tried and true approach — that could help end the pandemic sooner than we think?
Yes, and the answer is simple: testing. Scalable, cheap and accurate testing.
Testing every person in the country quickly and affordably, and again as needed based on risk and exposure, could identify and isolate cases, track spread of the virus and help reduce further transmission. This isn’t a matter of whether, but when. All signs indicate it’s feasible. Indeed, America’s testing capacity has dramatically improved since the pandemic started. But in order to reach the level of testing needed, we must act quickly and take key steps outlined below. There is no time to wait for a vaccine.