Researchers say millions more need to be tested per day to fight spread of COVID-19

Posted at 7:51 AM, Oct 06, 2020

The larger number of faster and cheaper COVID-19 tests is offering hope.

Researchers at Harvard and Brown say we need about 2 million tests a day of symptomatic people and contacts to fight the spread of the virus.

When you add in testing for teachers, students, nursing home residents and staff, the number is about 4.4 million.

That's around four times the amount of people being tested per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

“So, I think it's important to make sure we actually have a goal post about where the country needs to head, because the testing manufacturers need to know what that number looks like in order to make their own business and manufacturing decisions about how to scale,” said Dr. Thomas Tsai with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Tsai says we don't have enough capacity yet with the rapid antigen tests. He says letting the supply chain drive our guidelines for testing won't get us where we need to be.

He says PCR tests that take longer to come back are more accurate, but says the antigen tests are promising because we screen more often.

“Think about all the information that we’ve gleaned just from the exposure at the White House in terms of the patterns over the last several days,” said Tsai. “That kind of information, that kind of action should not just be reserved for our politicians and our athletes and celebrities. That's what all Americans deserve in terms of being about to have that information to fight the pandemic.”

He says testing by itself only gives you information. It's the actions like masking and distancing that really protect you.

He says the federal government needs to make testing cheaper or even free for it to work.