Provide Daily Rapid Result Covid Testing for All
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Our children need to return to school. Friends want to go out freely again, and businesses need to serve customers with confidence. Extended families want to gather for dinners together. The current standard for testing is not working, but as Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina proposes, paper strip testing can be a fast and effective-enough solution for us to control this outbreak and get closer to the life we used to have.
The current testing process falls short for many reasons. The standard nasal swab test, though highly sensitive and accurate, costs $50-$150 per test. It also takes between 2 and 14 days to receive a result. Because of the cost and wait time, 90% of infected Americans never get tested, and those that do typically only test once. While they wait, they most often continue their normal routine, transmitting the virus all the while. Contact tracers also find challenge in asking these Covid cases to recall their whereabouts two weeks prior to their positive result, rendering contact tracing useless.
As Dr. Mina describes in his New York Times editorial, we may have a simple solution within reach that legislators and community leaders need to advocate: Covid paper strip testing. Several companies and laboratories have developed paper strip tests and other inexpensive, rapid result Covid tests that could be done daily. Though not a perfect test, their cost-effectiveness trumps the deficit in sensitivity, at $1-5 per day. Just imagine: individuals could check themselves often, and given a positive result, self quarantine and notify their doctor to confirm the result with a standard swab test. Taken a step further, the government could affordably provide these tests to all citizens. Businesses, schools, and restaurants could more definitively know how to act if each participant took the test and showed their negative result before entering. The public could move about more freely with confidence if these tests were employed as required for certain establishments like offices, classrooms, and restaurants.
This solution could help our ailing country move in the right direction towards controlling the spread, but requires the support from our legislators and Food and Drug Administration. I encourage you all to share this proposal with your local, state, and national leaders so we can fast track the approval of these tests. See the template letter here and email your neighborhood school principal, district superintendent, mayor, governor, and representatives of Congress. This disease is not something we can eradicate by ourselves. We need to work together to test everyone and test often, and put an end to this unimaginable chapter of our lives.
Anita Wang, MD is a board certified emergency medicine physician with over 30 years of experience, including organizations like Doctors Without Borders and UCLA Medical. As an ER doctor, she helps people at their worst. In 2012, she realized she could help her chronically ill patients BEFORE they were ever in a medical emergency. That was when she established her wellness clinic in Laguna Beach, appropriately named Wellness, Longevity and Aesthetics.
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