Friday, March 20, 2020

The Next Phase of Testing

by Calculated Risk on 3/20/2020 02:39:00 PM

It appears that sometime next week the US will be conducting 70,000+ COVID-19 tests per day.

Currently the priority is to test people with symptoms, those with close contact to an infected person, healthcare providers and first responders. That should remain our priority until we have excess testing capacity above those needs.

However we must plan ahead.  We need a plan in place to dramatically expand tracking and surveillance testing - Test and Trace - and we need to look for the asymptomatic carriers. Finding and quarantining the asymptomatic carriers is key to getting the economy back on track (and not just slowing the spread, but preventing another surge in cases).

The government should be training thousands of trackers right now to do this job safely. And the government needs to quarantine (probably in their home) anyone testing positive.  Note: the priority on personal protective equipment (PPE) is the healthcare workers. South Korea calls these quarantined people twice a day until they test negative twice.

Everyone can do their part.   Stay at home if you can, and minimize contact with other people.   Everyone should keep track of where they go, and who they talk with, over the next few weeks. That way, if someone becomes sick with COVID-19 they can tell the trackers who to test.

We can't test everyone.  South Korea is testing the equivalent of about 100,000 people per day and that is only a small fraction of their 50 million total population. We have to be smart in who we test, and that is why tracking is important.

I'd like someone to be named head of tracking, and provide daily updates on the number of surveillance tests being performed, and the number of people under quarantine.   This should happen NOW, so we are ready when excess testing is finally available.

Soon the US will have 50,000+ cases and more.   There are two ways to stop the spread - shutting down (shelter in place) and a strong Test and Trace program.