What do we need to do before we can safely reopen the economy? Here in Rhode Island we’re apparently the only state with testing capacity that is at the recommended levels for making that move. But are we using the capacity we have in the best way so as to inform our decision making?
A essay by the vice provost of U of Penn (who’s an oncologist/bioethicist) and by an economist from NYU argues that we need to change to protocol about who gets tested:
[…] If we want to control the spread of COVID-19, the United States must adopt a new testing policy that prioritizes people who, although asymptomatic, may have the virus and infect many others.
We should target four groups. First, all health-care workers and other first responders who directly interact with many people. Second, workers who maintain our supply chains and crucial infrastructure, including grocery-store workers, police officers, public-transit workers, and sanitation personnel. The next group would be potential “super-spreaders”—asymptomatic individuals who could come into contact with many people. This third group would include people in large families and those who must interact with many vulnerable people, such as employees of long-term-care facilities. The fourth group would include all those who are planning to return to the workplace. These are precisely the individuals without symptoms whom the CDC recommends against testing.
Makes sense to me that if we’re moving into the third phase of this crisis (prevention -> mitigation -> recovery) then we need to change the focus of our thinking, and reorient the use of the tools we have before us.
(For folks in the faith community, it’s the worry about “super-spreaders” and large gatherings in stuffy spaces that are the major concern in my mind. There’s been a number of instances where religious gatherings have sparked hot-spots of COVID-19 spread. I don’t know how we’d return to a normal Sunday morning experience without some sort of information that warned us about an asymptomatic person or persons present – especially the clergy.)