Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Testers want tests, but let’s test the testers

Simple Laboratories testing for COVID-19 in Harwood Heights (photo for the Sun-Times by Ashlee Rezin Garcia)

     This was held from Wednesday's paper—space issues—but since it's already online, I don't see the harm in sharing it here. It should run Thursday.

     Testing. What’s that all about? I understand, they scrape inside your nose with a giant Q-tip, send the tip off to a lab to determine whether you’ve been infected by COVID-19.
     But toward what end?
     If you’re really sick, doctors need to know if it’s coronavirus to guide treatment. No confusion there. But what’s the goal of testing the general population? To track the pandemic’s spread? Important, but that isn’t why people are jamming National Guard drive-thru locations. Fear? Mere curiosity?
    The general idea, as best I understand it, is that you may have been infected but had no symptoms — many do not — and once you learn you were already infected but are OK now, then you can then breathe a big sigh of relief and go about your business, packing into bars, jamming into church pews, secure in the knowledge you can’t get sick because you already have been.
     You’d think that, desperate to get the economy back, both the dithering federal government and people protesting the lockdown would unite in one voice to demand those tests, now.
     But they’re not. The federal government hems and haws like Hamlet, then shrugs and tells the states to figure it out — all while Fox News types cram statehouse steps to decry any organized attempt to save their lives as fascism.
     Even municipalities are trying to get people tested, as are businesses like Simple Laboratories of Harwood Heights, a relatively new (founded 2014), relatively small (200 employees) diagnostic lab reaching over the paralyzed health care system to the public, sorting out the general confusion as it goes.

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  1. The reason for testing is unclear to me, also. If I test positive for the virus and have no symptoms, I can still spread it to others. So I quarantine myself for 2 weeks, and then what? Does the virus just go away, become dormant? Do the antibodies protect not only me, but keep me from spreading the disease to others? If the virus doesn't go away, do we wind up up thousands/millions of Typhoid Marys running around infecting others for...what period of time? If 1,000,000 people a day were tested, it would take almost a year to test everyone in the U.S.

    If I test negative, I could get infected next week. Do I get tested once a month until there is a vaccine available? There are several vaccine studies in process now, one of which could be ready by September or October, but it could take much longer. Once we have a vaccine, how long would it take to manufacture 7+ billion doses? If no one has a job, how to they pay for it; who pays to vaccinate everyone?

    I don't remotely have any idea how this is going to end, but I have a strong feeling, it's going to be really bad. Earth tilting on its axis bad. Somehow we have to manage until there is a vaccine or treatment, but we can't with no businesses, no commerce, no jobs. I'm retired with a fixed income, so don't worry about myself, at least for the near future, but the government can't support everyone for 2 years.

    This is a real disaster movie without all the cool explosions, but in this movie, the Rock can't jump in and save us.

  2. All valid points from Neil and Shari.

  3. There is no system for testing. Even if there were, one test per person doesn’t cut it. Ideally, every worker who comes in contact with the public should be tested regularly (i.e. Every three days? Who knows?). Every person who ventures out to shop should be tested before entering a store. Taking one’s temperature means almost nothing. Then the tracing must begin... in earnest. All this is just stop gap measures until a vaccine is found. No guarantee there either. Herd immunity? Can’t work with with this virus. Accept the fact that we will be living (and dying) like this for a while. Not until we have a real President in the White House will things have a chance to change.

  4. My understanding is that testing is important on the macro level, to see where the disease is spreading, and how fast.

    Of course the same nitwits who are out screaming because they can't go to Applebee's would be hysterical about the invasion of their privacy.

  5. A lot of imponderables, but I believe that with a sufficient sample size testing can provide information on the rate of infection, significant vectors, etc. Useful information in evaluating the risks of "opening up."


  6. I guess I'm just not sure what you're saying in this piece.


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