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The Test's the Thing

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The White House is now balancing the risk to public health and the risk to economic welfare posed by the coronavirus crisis. Yet a solution could be on the horizon. The key is to make cheap, rapid testing available to every individual, regardless of symptoms.

Up to now, the White House has called for health-care providers to focus limited testing resources on those people most likely to be infected, so that COVID-19 cases can be isolated and treated appropriately. But constraining testing in this way comes at a cost: We have no idea how many people are actually infected and how likely they are to become ill or die, making it impossible to determine who should be isolated and how many people will need treatment.

Studies suggest that the overwhelming majority of people infected with the new virus show only mild symptoms or none at all. The actual number of infected is thus likely far higher than the number of confirmed cases, because many may never realize they were infected. So the real mortality rate is likely a fraction of what we thought it was just a few weeks ago, and “herd immunity” could be spreading faster than we thought.

The absence of widespread testing has forced officials to both balance public health against economic well-being and allocate urgently needed health-care resources based on inadequate data. The optimal way to impose social-distancing measures and direct scarce ventilators and personal protective equipment to the places that need them most is to know where the infections are before more people get sick. That’s why it is urgent to move to population-survey testing.

Read the full article at National Review.