Will america ever have a national Covid-19 testing strategy? – world news

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As the coronavirus epidemic worsens, US health experts hope Joe Biden’s administration will put in place something Donald Trump’s has not — a comprehensive national testing strategy.

This kind of strategy, they say, could systematically check more people for infections and spot surges before they take off. The health experts say it would be an improvement from the current practice, which has professional athletes and students at elite universities getting routine tests while many other Americans stand in line for hours — whether they get tested at all.

“We have had no strategy for this virus. Our strategy has been no strategy,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University researcher focused on use of testing to track disease.

Some experts say the lack of this type of system is one reason for the current national explosion in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Whether we’d had a more robust approach and testing was once scaled up as probably the most tools, I think much of this third surge would would have been avoidable,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Branch of Public Health.

There are differing opinions on what this type of strategy must appear to be, but many experts say rapid and at-home tests must be used so Americans can check themselves and stay absent from others whether they test positive.

The president-elect has endorsed that strategy, called for making testing free for all Americans, and said government experts at the Centers for Disease Regulate and Prevention and other agencies must be empowered to coordinate all the effort.

“The reality is we’re not testing enough today,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told The Associated Press this week.

His transition team so far has not gone into further detail.

Testing was once probably the most first — and most enduring — stumbles in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic that hit the nation early this year.

In February, the CDC distributed test kits to public health laboratories that first of all were defective. US officials worked with companies to expand testing, but shortages of chemicals, materials and protective equipment meant fewer tests were to be had than what experts said was once essential.

Worse, some experts say, states and cities competed against every other to shop for limited testing services and products and materials, and with little guidance or training on how to best use the tests.

In April, President Donald Trump declared governors were responsible for testing. Amid complaints approximately shortages and delays, the federal government began sourcing and shipping key testing supplies to states, beginning with swabs.

In the most recent phase, Trump officials are sending more than 100 million rapid, point-of-care tests to states. The government said the first shipments went out in early October.

Such tests are thought to be key to slowing spread, but states have distributed them in a different way. For instance, Alaska is sending tests to oil drilling sites, Colorado to native public health agencies for testing homeless populations, and Mississippi to veterans’ homes.

There’s also no federal standard for reporting test data. Some states outline the number of tests administered, while others tally the number of people tested. Some have counted types of tests that others don’t, which can skew results because some tests are better at diagnosing active infections than others.

Administration officials say they’re proud of the present state of testing. Final month, Vice President Mike Pence celebrated that 170 million tests have been completed, and that an expanding array of tests are to be had.

But the point of interest must be less on numbers and more on action, said Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health.

“It shouldn’t be anybody who needs a test can get a test,” Khan said. “It must be anybody who has a positive test immediately gets lonely” and the people they were in contact with checked and placed in quarantine.

He was once echoed by Nunez-Smith, the Biden coronavirus adviser.

“Testing is only useful when we will be able to act on the test,” said Nunez-Smith, a Yale health fairness researcher.

Trump himself has voiced a lack of enthusiasm for comprehensive testing. In a June tweet, the president called testing a double-edged sword that is good to have but “makes us look naughty.” And Dr. Scott Atlas — a top pandemic adviser to Trump before he resigned Monday — argued against testing people who aren’t experiencing symptoms.

But some regard such thinking as an attempt to spin a leadership failure into something else.

“The executive department has seen test results – case counts – as a outline card on its performance,” said Carl Bergstrom, a University of Washington evolutionary biologist who studies emerging infectious diseases.

The nation is also weeks absent from coronavirus vaccines fitting to be had, but that won’t erase the need for testing, said the Rockefeller Foundation’s Eileen O’Connor.

“We’re not going to receive everybody vaccinated correct absent. And we still don’t know the way long that immunity will final,” she said. So testing will still be needed to monitor where the infection is active and to see whether infections are occurring in vaccinated people.

What must be done moving forward?

In July, the Rockefeller Foundation called for making cheap tests widely to be had to better identify people who find themselves infected and don’t comprehend it. That would entail developing and making cheap antigen tests, which supply quick results but are less dependable than genetic tests. Foundation officials hoped the government would push companies to fabricate tests the same way it has pushed vaccine makers to mass produce experimental vaccines.

Some Harvard researchers imagine that testing half the population every week would be conceivable by mailing those tests to millions of US households.

Participation would be voluntary, and positive results would should be confirmed with genetic tests — the home tests aren’t thought to be as touchy as more established lab-based testing. Even so, it could dramatically expand the amount of infection monitoring going on across the nation, its proponents say.

All the way through an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said Americans must have easy tests they are able to do in their own homes.

“We don’t have that,” he said. “We must have that.”

Versions of such an approach have been tried in some places, including Slovakia and Minnesota. But some experts note there is little precedent for screening tens of millions of people with cheap, rapid tests—which would generate a remarkable portion of false results. It’s also unclear if people who test themselves at home will follow directions to quarantine.

Almost all experts agree that more data and coordination is needed.

“Having each and every state do its own object without guidance from the federal level — from CDC in specific — I think has in point of fact hampered us,” said Scott Becker, the chief executive of the Organization of Public Health Laboratories. “This can be a federal response as much as this is a state response, but it’s a shared responsibility. We want to work together.”

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