By Jose Orozco
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected everyone and therefore pandemic controls have been put in place. Controlling a pandemic requires testing, isolating infected individuals, contact tracing and quarantining.
But testing has for the most part been openly opposed by President Donald Trump, and only recently has he made the announcement to invest in coronavirus testing.
This is definitely a good move forward, but it is potentially done for the wrong reasons. First off, the reason for these tests is questionable since it seems to be a potential excuse to increase the opening of businesses.
The commentary and actions by the Trump Administration lead one to believe that they are not looking for a lasting solution. There have been no guidelines on how each state should proceed and yet there has been plenty of commentary on how this will allow schools and businesses to open.
Overall, however, this is positive news. Currently, testing is mainly available to those whose lives depend on it. Having more people tested can give us a more accurate interpretation of how we should continue with aspects of pandemic control, like with quarantine.
On Sept. 28, CNN reported that Trump had officially announced his plan to begin the distribution of the 150 million COVID-19 rapid tests by Abbott Laboratories.
“But without detailed federal guidance on how to distribute the tests, states and cities remained divided… on how to best use those types of rapid tests and others for the testing technique known as ‘screening.'”
There are three main tests for coronavirus: PCR, antigen and serology tests.
PCR tests look for pieces of RNA from the virus, antigen tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the virus and serology tests look for antibodies in the blood.
The FDA states that PCR (molecular) tests are “typically highly accurate and usually do not need to be repeated.” On the other hand, antigen tests usually have “highly accurate [positive results] but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test.”
There is an unidentified issue here because Abbott is making antigen tests. Antigen tests can give false-negative results.
The Texas Department of State Health Services states, “It does not accurately rule out those who are not infected.”
This is concerning since negative results can provide a false sense of safety.
It should be known though that these tests are better than serology tests because they are diagnostic. This means that PCR and antigen tests show “if you have an active coronavirus infection.” Serology tests show if you have been infected in the past.
Unfortunately, the way that Abbott’s antigen tests have been promoted is misleading.
It has been presented as a quick way to solve the massive closure problem caused by the pandemic.
CNN reports that the majority of the tests “will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies and schools immediately and (as) fast as they can.”
What is more concerning is the lack of structure. The government has already allowed many schools to open without enforcing COVID-19 tests.
This looks like testing is not a priority but opening everything back to normal is.
Indeed, this “pivot by the Trump administration and by the President, who has repeatedly and inaccurately claimed that more coronavirus testing in the U.S. would lead to more coronavirus cases” is confusing.
The President’s recent change of viewpoint is bizarre. Since he has been known to have multiple idées fixes, the cause of his change of mind might be due to the current election. People’s concerns for COVID-19 might have predisposed him to invest.
Notwithstanding his reasons, Trump’s change of pace is beneficial to everyone.
And although this is a good step forward, it is certainly not enough, according to healthcare experts.
CNN explains: “Fewer than 25 million tests are now reported monthly but a basic screening strategy will require as many as 200 million each month –– far more than the 150 million Abbott antigen tests purchased by the government.”
The issue is that tests are not on a one-time basis. They must be taken periodically by every individual. A total of 150 million tests will not do much in the grand scheme of things.
Another concern is for COVID-19 asymptomatic cases. Several politicians seem to think that people who do not show symptoms should not be tested.
Dr. Mark McClellan states, “What we don’t have is a national strategy that we’re actually implementing to get those asymptomatic screening tests to everybody who most needs them right now to reopen schools safely, to reopen the economy as effectively as possible.”
Asymptomatic tests are integral to providing a safer environment for everyone. Not doing so defeats the purpose of testing. We want to stop the virus from spreading, but we do not test those who are infected and show no symptoms?
The lack of a plan from the government creates challenges for each state as they must figure out what to do. Even though reopening businesses is the ultimate goal, it definitely should not be rushed by the government.
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