Anne Lowe, a pharmacist and board member emeritus at The Steamboat Institute, penned a column in the Steamboat Pilot arguing that increased testing is vital to winning the war against the coronavirus. Read the column HERE or pasted below.
Testing Key to Rooting Out Hidden Enemy
We can’t effectively fight an enemy if we don’t know where it’s hiding. Instead of finding the virus, we’ve resorted to hiding ourselves. This is a powerless strategy.
Producing and distributing abundant COVID-19 tests, to be used without restrictions, should be one of the nation’s top priorities. If we can quickly build ventilators, PPE, mobile hospitals, and equip thousand-bed hospital ships, then dramatically ramping up testing capacity ought to be an obtainable goal.
To achieve it, the country must focus on FDA de-regulation, development of more efficient tests (including those that identify patients with antibodies to COVID-19), expanded manufacturing, and massive distribution.
Until we can get an effective treatment or vaccine, which appear to be many months away, this aggressive testing strategy is the only way to stop the financial devastation associated with most of the population staying at home. Currently, state and local governments are requiring even those who may test negative to stay home, while expecting those, who may unknowingly have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic carriers, to show up on the front lines. Extensive testing will give us the information we need to isolate those who test positive from those who test negative or have antibodies to the virus, and we can replace this confinement for all strategy with a more effective plan of action.
Compare the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill recently passed by Congress with spending an estimated $10-$20 per person to get tested. Even adding unemployment and medical expenses for those who test positive, testing-related expenditures would pale in comparison to the overall destruction of people’s lives and the economy if we stay the current course. When we talk about saving lives, we need to consider people’s livelihoods in the equation.
We don’t live in a perfect world where we can remove ourselves from a hidden enemy and expect it to go away while treatments and vaccines are developed. Waiting for some arbitrary endpoint for us to get back to living our lives is dangerous, and the destructive ramifications will become worse than the disease. Focusing our energy and resources on more readily available testing, without delay, will enable us to tackle this pandemic with the targeted force required to defeat it and not us.
Anne Lowe, Pharm D, is a Steamboat Springs resident and board member emeritus at The Steamboat Institute.