There is broad agreement within the public health community that the path out of the COVID-19 lockdown is through widespread testing to catch new infections, tracing to find everyone who may have been infected, and supported isolation to prevent further spread of the virus. There is little agreement, however, that the technology and infrastructure exists today to meet that need.
With so much at stake—countless lives and billions of dollars—speed is of the essence in scaling up COVID-19 testing. We’ve put together a brief white paper providing an assessment of existing and emerging testing methods and outlines a path by which the United States can rapidly scale up the infrastructure that enables millions of tests per day.
To rapidly increase the scale of COVID-19 testing, the United States should:
- Continue to scale up testing methods already in use, such as RT-qPCR as well as isothermal nucleic acid methods, by expanding the number of testing machines and kits.
- Leverage the country’s vast genomic sequencing capacity by repurposing it to dramatically augment testing capacity.
- Invest in the development of massively distributable, cheap, point-of-use tests, such as antigen-based tests, and be prepared to deploy them as soon as they become available.
- Make testing widely available, beginning with those at highest risk, regardless of symptoms, insurance reimbursement, or other impediments.
- Scale up testing to enable screening of significant portions of the workforce and integrate screening effectively with contact tracing.