Without Testing for COVID-19 ‘We Are Flying Blind’

Without Testing for COVID-19 ‘We Are Flying Blind’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Donald Trump, pockets of protesters around the country, and others are clamoring for the United States to be “reopened” from the severe lockdown conditions it’s been under to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that won’t happen until individual testing for the virus ramps up dramatically.

That’s according to public health professionals and some government officials.

Much of the US economy has been shuttered due to many governors and mayors across the country ordering bars, restaurants, theaters and other “non-essential” businesses to close and for residents to remain home in response to the pandemic, which has claimed more than 35,000 American lives and sickened nearly 700,000.

In recent days, pockets of protesters have emerged in Michigan and a few other places, challenging their governors’ orders.

And despite having said that he would leave responsibility for reopening the states in the hands of their individual governors, Trump has been on Twitter to egg on the protesters, particularly those in states critical to his upcoming re-election.

What’s needed to do that, however, is dramatically more testing of Americans, to ensure that virus is under control as the lockdowns are eased, according to other government officials and health professionals.

“This is not either/or. I mean, I want to liberate Michigan. I want to liberate Michigan from COVID-19 so that everybody can get back to work. And that involves information, because right now without the testing that you talk about, and it’s so true, we are flying blind,” Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said in a TV interview Friday. “We want a situation where everyone can go to the grocery store, to go back to work in this store and get a quick test and the person who is sick goes home instead of everybody having to stay home, which is what is happening right now. Which, by the way, is the reason that my Democratic colleagues in the Senate and I put out a report through our policy committee yesterday about testing.”

In terms of testing, what’s required is both an increase in volume and in the efficiency in receiving results, according to Dr Vivek Murthy, who served as US surgeon general during the Obama administration.

“The way to think about testing is to think about it like your eyes. They would allow to you see clearly what is happening in a community. If you don’t have adequate testing, it’s hard to imagine that you could feel comfortable relaxing restrictions without putting the community at significant risk,” he said. “What we really need to hear at this point from our elected leaders on the federal side is we need to hear clearly what the target is for testing, what the plan is to ensure that we close a gap between where we are now–which is doing under 150,000 tests a day–and where we need to be, which is likely in excess of a million tests a day. And we need to also understand how we’re going to reduce the turnaround time. Far too many people are waiting three, four, five days to get a test result. We need to close that gap.”

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