Coronavirus cases are surging all over the country, especially in states like Texas, Arizona, and Florida, and much like at the beginning of the pandemic, Covid test shortages are causing long lines in these hard-hit states. On this episode of Reopening America, host Oscar Ramirez talks with Bloomberg health reporter Emma Court about why we still have such a testing shortfall, and what we can really do about it at this point. She says it comes down to supply and demand: The supplies for testing, from the swabs they use to take samples, to the storage for the swabs, to the equipment that actually examines the samples, have all come under strain. At the same time, with businesses reopening, the demand has ramped up in a big way. Nursing homes and schools are required to test their staff, and many companies want to provide tests for their employees as well; everyone else wants to get tested before they visit friends or family members. “Unfortunately, I think with the trajectory being what it is, these problems will continue over time,” Emma says.
And that’s only the first part of the problem. Longer wait times to get tested is also translating to longer wait times to get your results. While people are waiting for their results, they’re more than likely going about their regular business, visiting the grocery store or going into work, possibly spreading the disease while they do. And all these delays make contact tracing more difficult, as well. Currently, we’re testing around half a million people a day, but experts say with the current outbreak, we need to be testing more than a million people a day. Health departments will be easily overwhelmed by all these cases, Emma points out.
The good news is that it isn’t too late. Emma says we can still invest in the infrastructure we need to get the tests made, administered, and evaluated; we can still get this under control. One good option is “test smarter:” Instead of testing anyone and everyone, we could focus testing in areas where it’s most likely to spread. And taking a more careful approach with reopening businesses, as well; it’s obvious that there are certain places causing sustained community spread, like bars. If we can tailor our strategies a bit more carefully, we still have a chance to flatten the curve, at long last. Listen to the episode for more on Covid testing shortfalls on Reopening America.
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