EARTH FUTURE ACTION
THAT IS WAY TOO LOW—MORE ARE NEEDED
People have put forth wearing masks and social distancing as a solution to the Coronavirus crisis. Masks and social distancing are certainly a start, but the most effective solution is universal testing for all. This is what the experts have been saying and this is what has worked very well in countries like South Korea.
In order to deal with the Coronavirus we need to understand some basic facts about the disease. The first fact is that it is transmitted through the air. When an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes, tiny particles called aerosols carry the virus into the air from their nose or mouth. Anyone who is nearby can breathe those aerosols into their lungs and get infected. Thanks to the incompetence of the handling of the virus, there are many details of this process that remain unknown. But there is a study that shows that the virus can stay airborne for up to three hours. (The New England Journal of Medicine).
The second fact that is important is that a very high percentage of people under 60 who get infected don't have any symptoms. (The highest risk group are people over 70). While it is difficult at this time to say what the exact numbers are, a study by Ochsner Health claims that 75% of infectious people are asymptomatic.
That is good news. The bad news, however, is that these asymptomatic people can spread the virus even if they do not appear to be sick. What does this mean? It means that we need to have universal testing. If schools re-open, everyone needs to be tested. The same is true for businesses.
There is a myth that cheap masks will save everyone. N95 masks are the most protective (offering 95% filtration). But it seems that most people are wearing the cheap masks that offer limited protection. (Study on Masks) There is also this idea that social distancing will automatically save people. It is certainly better than nothing, but even this method has its problems. For example, people may go to a restaurant, take off their masks, and sit one booth away from the other patrons. These people are eating with no masks on while they communicate with their waiter. So that is another way the disease can be transmitted in a public area.
There is good news. We now have new testing technology (such as Abbott tests) which can produce results in 15 minutes. They don't cost a lot of money.
But the problem with testing in general is that America only has around 25 million Coronavirus testing kits a month. Some experts say way more is needed in order to safely re-open the economy. And 25 million is roughly the same number we had back in July. It is now October. This is unacceptable.
It is time for a massive increase in Coronavirus testing. We cannot deal with the threat of the virus if we cannot find the virus. And the best way to find out who has the virus is to dramatically increase testing. There also needs to be repeated testing, because an individual can be fine one month and sick the next.
Over 200,000 Americans have died of the Coronavirus so far and that number is only escalating. This is a greater number of Americans dead than the number of soldiers who have died in all the wars since World War II.
And even President Donald Trump has had the virus.
So increasing testing is a matter of national security.
JOE BIDEN CALLS FOR SEVENFOLD INCREASE IN TESTING
Former Vice President and democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, recently called for a sevenfold increase in Coronavirus testing.
“I'll put a national testing plan in place with the goal of testing as many people each day as we're currently testing each week, a sevenfold increase,” Biden said. (The Hill)
“There's a key difference in this campaign between Donald Trump and me: I believe in testing,” he added. “Donald Trump does not. I believe in science.” (The Hill)
Biden also said if elected, he would call on the new Congress to put a bill with resources to fight the virus on his desk by the end of January, “to see how both our public health and our economic response can be seen through the end.” (The Hill)
Biden has also called for faster, cheaper testing that one can take at home or at school. This is a step that many experts have said is necessary for opening back up society.
“It’s unconscionable that we're more than 8 months into this crisis and front-line health care workers are still rationing their personal protective equipment,” Biden added. (The Hill)
Biden also said he would encourage the government to implement a mask mandate.
READ MORE ABOUT BIDEN'S CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE PLAN BELOW
Joe Biden's Plan to Beat Covid-19 (Joe Biden Official Website)
Biden calls for sevenfold increase in testing as he details COVID-19 plan (The Hill, 10-23-20)
THE NUMBER OF CORONAVIRUS TESTS REQUIRED
A report funded by the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy and the Rockefeller Foundation states the following:
"At present infection rates, a basic screening strategy will require approximately 200 million tests each month for students and staff at the nation’s primary and secondary schools and residents and staff at nursing homes for them to open safely and in stages. But fewer than 25 million Covid-19 tests are now reported monthly in the United States. Even if infection rates decline, the testing needed in just schools and nursing homes exceeds the nation’s entire capacity now." (The Rockefeller Foundation - PDF) (Stat News)
This is the best study we've seen on how many tests are needed. Though we're not sure we need as much as 200 million testing kits a month.
WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO DO TO GET TESTING TO ADEQUATE LEVELS?
PROVIDE STATES WITH $5-$10 BILLION PER MONTH FOR UNIVERSAL TESTING
The head of the Rockefeller Foundation’s pandemic-response initiative, Jonathan Quick, has told the Washington Post that $5 billion to $10 billion per month is what the states need from the feds to pay for testing and to prevent more shutdowns. We will include the exact quote from the Washington Post below:
"The federal government doesn’t pay for screening tests, and though cash-strapped states 'have got the machinery there' to do screening, 'they’ve got to fuel it with adequate funding.' The $5 billion to $10 billion per month Quick estimates the states need from the feds 'is chump change compared to having to shut down again.'"
ADVANCEMENTS IN TESTING TECHNOLOGY
Saliva Tests: Recently the FDA has authorized a new method of testing called SalivaDirect (PDF) from Yale School of Public Health. It's cheap and less time consuming than the standard nasal swab test. It's easier to administer and more comfortable for the patient. A study found that these saliva tests showed positive results 94% of the time.
At Home Tests: The FDA has recently authorized several at-home tests. Many companies are creating at home tests that use the saliva testing method mentioned above.
New Rapid Result Tests: The standard Covid-19 tests that have been used so far usually take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to generate results. But a new generation of rapid diagnostic tests can provide results in less than an hour. Abbott has provided a test that can generate results in as little as 15 minutes. You can read more about Abbott's fast, $5, 15-minute, easy to use tests here.
TROUBLING QUESTIONS ABOUT CDC DIRECTOR ROBERT REDFIELD
If the United States is to get testing where it needs to be, there needs to be proper leadership. However, there are troubling questions about the current director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The current director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, has no experience leading a public health agency.
One of the most troubling aspects of his response has been the CDC's position that asymptomatic people who have come in contact with the virus do not need to be tested. This was recently changed. But after seven months of the Coronavirus being in the country, this should have been a priority from the beginning. CDC director attempts to clarify controversial Covid-19 testing guidelines. (Stat News). Timeline of CDC Guidelines.
In the beginning of America's Coronavirus pandemic, the CDC also told people that they didn't need to wear masks. (Marketwatch) This position was also eventually changed, but it was troubling that the CDC made this point to begin with.
And there has been a history of underestimating the threat of the virus. When the first Coronavirus death happened on American soil, Robert Redfield was asked what he thought about the risk this virus presented. His reply was, “The risk at this time is low...The American public needs to go on with their normal lives.” So from the beginning, there was a dangerous trend of underestimating the level of the threat. (Rollingstone).
Many people in the scientific community also worry about the discriminatory and religious overtones of some of the health policies that Robert Redfield has championed during his career. He has been accused of being homophobic. CDC Director Robert Redfield Has A Long History With Anti-LGBTQ Groups And Advocating For Discriminatory Policies Detrimental To HIV-Positive Americans (Equity Forward. PDF)
Robert Redfield has opposed condoms and needle exchange programs as ways to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, despite expert advice to the contrary.
In the early 1990s, Redfield faced accusations of scientific misconduct for misrepresenting data about an experimental HIV vaccine he was involved with. In a military investigation, he was eventually cleared of the misconduct charges but data he published about the vaccine had to be corrected, according to the New York Times. (New York Times)
One of the researchers who first reported Redfield’s misuse of data has been speaking out publicly after news of Redfield’s appointment emerged, Kaiser Health News reported. “Either he was egregiously sloppy with data or it was fabricated,” said former Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Hendrix, who is now based at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It was somewhere on that spectrum, both of which were serious and raised questions about his trustworthiness.” (NPR)
Redfield also sits on the board of the Children’s Aid Fund, which was started by evangelical Christians and has championed abstinence-only education for HIV prevention “and other non-evidence-based approaches based on religious belief rather than science,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor at Yale Law School and former HIV/AIDS activist. (Vox)
A National Decision Point: Effective Testing and Screening for Covid-19 (The Rockefeller Foundation - PDF)
Ochsner Health Announces COVID-19 Jefferson And Orleans Parish Prevalence Study Findings (Ochsner Health)
Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) (CDC, 9-18-20)
U.S. needs 193 million Covid-19 tests per month to reopen schools and keep up with pandemic, new report says (Stat News, 9-9-20)
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Seven months into the pandemic, Trump’s testing plan enters its second wave of failure (The Washington Post, 9-23-20)
The Costs of Trump’s Debacle on COVID Testing (The American Prospect, 8-11-20)
Covid-19 testing in the US is abysmal. Again. (Vox, 7-10-20)
‘I don’t kid’: Trump says he wasn’t joking about slowing coronavirus testing (Politico, 6-23-20)
The Four Men Responsible For America’s COVID-19 Test Disaster (Rolling Stone, 5-10-20)
New Testing Technology
The Latest in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing Methods and Availability (Good Rx)
Abbott's Fast, $5, 15-Minute, Easy-to-Use COVID-19 Antigen Test Receives FDA Emergency Use Authorization;
Mobile App Displays Test Results to Help Our Return to Daily Life; Ramping Production to 50 Million Tests a Month (Abbott, 8-26-20)
CDC reverses guidance on COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people (The Hill, 9-18-20)
CDC reverses controversial guidance, saying tests are for anyone who contacts someone with covid-19 (The Washington Post, 9-18-20)
Can asymptomatic patients spread coronavirus? Here's what a new study reveals. (Advisory Board, 8-10-20)
COVID-19 study shows 75 percent of infectious people were asymptomatic (Fox 8, 7-2-20)
How many Covid-19 patients have no symptoms? More than you might think. (Advisory Board, 6-1-20)
Questions About CDC Director Robert Redfield
Laurie Garrett's on Why Trump's new CDC director is an abysmal choice (Laurie Garrett CNN, 5-13-18)
Laurie Garrett is one of the world's leading experts on global epidemics.
CDC Director Robert Redfield Has A Long History With Anti-LGBTQ Groups And Advocating For Discriminatory Policies Detrimental To HIV-Positive Americans (Equity Forward, February 2019)
Trump’s Pick for CDC Head Is a Religious Homophobe Sure to Worsen America’s HIV Epidemic (Hornet, 5-15-18)
The new CDC director was once accused of research misconduct (Vox, 3-22-18)