There’s Only One Way to Get the U.S. Back to Work: Testing, Testing and More Testing

Arthur Caplan and Robert Bazell in Time:

The CDC just announced new guidelines for “critical” employees to return to work after possible COVID-19 exposure. Take your temperature often. Wear a mask. Stay 6 ft. away from others when possible. Go home if you feel sick. It is well-intentioned advice. But it is not enough—not for “critical” workers, however defined, or for the rest of us.

Until we have a vaccine, which is likely a year or more off, or truly effective treatments, which may be just as far in the future, the answer is, as it has been since the start of this pandemic: testing, testing and more testing. “Anyone who wants a test can get a test,” President Trump famously proclaimed on March 6. We know how horribly wrong he was. A tragic, preventable combination of errors in the White House, the CDC and FDA kept this country from having tests to detect the new coronavirus as it spread through the population almost unnoticed. By March 6, when Trump insisted America had sufficient testing for all of us, fewer than 2,000 Americans had gotten a test. The testing situation is improving. By April 14, around 3 million Americans had gotten COVID-19 tests, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Tests are becoming easier to access. The Department of Health and Human Services just promulgated rules allowing tests to be administered in pharmacies, and its civil rights division said it would not enforce HIPAA rules to allow more widespread community testing. Gates Ventures is funding a demonstration project that can deliver and pick up testing material for homes in the Seattle area. Abbott Labs won FDA approval for a test that can deliver results in less than 15 minutes.