Can a Battery of New COVID Tests Stem the US Debacle?

Robert Bazell in Nautilus:

Can we leap beyond flattening the curve and eliminate COVID-19 as a public health threat—not years from now but weeks? “It’s a war we should fight to win,” declared Harvey V. Fineberg, former Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, in the New England Journal of Medicine.War metaphors applied to health—“War on Drugs,” “War on Cancer”—are tiresome and often counterproductive. But considering the attempt to overcome COVID-19, the metaphor could not be more apt. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of lives are at risk. The economy of much of the world depends on the outcome. If it’s improperly managed, the effort to contain the pandemic could drag on for months or years longer than necessary. As in all wars, the battles are complex, varied and ever-changing. High priority must go to health care workers to get them personal protective equipment, ventilators, and all the tools they need. Efforts to develop effective treatments and a protective vaccine must proceed with maximum haste.

The first battlefield to be joined in an encounter with a new pathogen is medical testing. On this front, the United States lost miserably. The White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, failed to identify those who are infected so they and their contacts can be isolated, possibly stopping the epidemic before it spreads. It was the Pearl Harbor of COVID-19. But like the real defeat in World War II, it is only one battle. The disaster can mobilize the U.S. to triumph, provided it has learned from its mistakes, and now acts with alacrity on the best information. This is starting to happen, but not quickly enough. Public health officials across the country still decry a massive shortage of tests. Only a portion of people told they have COVID-19 get tested. On Monday, Chrissie Juliano, executive director of the Big Cities Health Coalition, which represents 30 urban public health departments, told The New York Times, “Many local communities are flying blind, making decisions in the absence of full information largely due to the failure of the federal government to provide sufficient testing capacity.”

More here.