Concerns over testing for COVID immunity may slow our return to work

COVID-19 tests will be crucial to helping us determine when it’s safe to leave our homes.

What tests are out there?

One test determines if someone is infected with COVID-19. Let’s call this our “COVID test.”

Another test determines if someone has the antibodies–or is immune–to COVID-19. Let’s call this our “antibody test.”

Let’s start with the COVID test

The US had a slow rollout of the COVID test, from a combination of a failed testing kit and maybe a lack of leadership–you decide–from the testing timeline we lay out here.

early COVID testing failures define the US pandemic response

The BBC graph below illustrates the US testing response versus that of other countries.

coronavirus testing across the world graph

COVID testing is finally ramping up

Faster tests are coming into the market and private companies like Quest and LabCorp are now running thousands of tests a day. But as the virus spread, infecting hundreds of thousands of Americans, demand for testing has overwhelmed many labs and testing sites. Delays in getting results and limited access to tests continues. In addition, chemicals and cotton swabs used to run the tests are in short supply in many areas.

Okay, now let’s talk Antibodies test

Tests that measure a person’s antibodies to the coronavirus could help us to determine when it’s safe to leave our homes. If you’re immune, you might return to work without worry, for example.

But concerns have been raised that antibody tests that indicate exposure–and immunity–may be both inaccurate and not widely available.

The bungled rollout of coronavirus tests has probably been the biggest failure in the battle against the pandemic. How did the US fail so badly? Who is responsible? Check out the timeline of events here, and you decide.

The Obama administration produced in-depth reports on lessons-learned from Ebola, and how they should inform pandemic preparations for the future. In order to check on the government’s progress, in 2017, officials from the Obama administration along with officials from the Trump administration together ran a mock pandemic event.

The training event revealed: the government was underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated in the face of a pandemic.

Read the report here.


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