I really admire people who think outside of the box.
In medical school—and especially in public health school—we were taught to look critically at every problem, to evaluate it, and to consider different solutions. Even those that may seem controversial.
This kind of critical thinking is integral to scientific advancement. But sadly, with most modern research bankrolled by Big Pharma, it’s hard to be a radical thinker these days.
So when I came across a recent story about Michael Mina—a Harvard epidemiologist and expert in disease testing—and his plan to put an end to the coronavirus crisis, I was very excited. And it won’t take long to see why…
Daily DIY testing
Last week, I explained why, even if a new coronavirus vaccine passes muster, it still won’t herald a quick return to business as usual. But, according to Mina, there is a simple-yet-viable way to quickly get back to normal life… through daily do-it-yourself (DIY) testing at home.
Mina believes this strategy would be as effective as a vaccine in stopping COVID-19 transmission. And guess what? These DIY paper-strip tests are already out there. They’re cheap and accessible, and they could just be our way out of this mess.
If the federal government got on board with this strategy, they could send tests to hundreds of millions of Americans in a matter of weeks. And they’re made for less than a dollar, which means that daily or every-other-day testing at home is perfectly feasible.
It’s as easy as it sounds, too: When you wake up and get ready to go about your day, this test strip would become part of your regular morning ritual. If it’s positive, you stay home—simple as that.
No, these strips are not as accurate as other diagnostic tests. But they will identify a very infectious person—which makes them an effective way to break the transmission chain.
In other words, we’re talking about the same practical benefits of a vaccine… just way cheaper. (Then again, who would make trillions off of this pandemic if managing it were this simple?)
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to work tirelessly on drug treatments and vaccines. But this strategy would certainly buy us time, while enabling us to get the economy back up and running safely.
Artificial “herd immunity”
Current testing and tracing protocols rely on highly accurate laboratory tests—which is great for identifying individual infections. But it’s also costly and slow, which means that it doesn’t do much to slow community spread.
In fact, experts estimate that such protocols probably only identify around three percent of cases early enough to curb transmission effectively.
If everyone were testing themselves routinely at home, however, anyone with positive results could self-quarantine—providing a kind of artificial herd immunity, and potentially stalling virus transmission enough to quell the pandemic.
Just imagine being able to know that you were infectious with a simple home test. You could stay away from your family, friends, and co-workers until you have a clear result, and the rest of the world can continue to carry on in the meantime.
As someone with a master’s degree in public health, this makes perfect sense to me. That’s because, quite simply, interrupting transmission chains this way could prevent any future spikes in infections and deaths. Sure, it’s not foolproof—but it could very well be another public health precaution we use to slow down the damage, much like wearing masks.
But, leave it to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ruin a good thing. They’ve held up approval because these cheap, rapid tests aren’t as effective as the nasal-swab laboratory tests—which would make perfect sense if we were using these rapid tests as formal diagnostic tools.
But that’s not what’s happening here. As it stands, these test strips provide enough accuracy to serve as an initial screen while you wait for a doctor to confirm your result. (Or alternatively, if you don’t have any severe symptoms, you could just wait it out at home until you’re in the clear.) If nothing else, it could position us at least somewhat closer to normal while researchers continue to develop drugs or vaccines that can put a permanent end to this nightmare.
Given the fact that this pandemic’s toll continues to rise—whether we’re talking about the nation’s physical, economic, or educational health—I think it’s time we looked under any rock available for a path out. And what better way than using these rapid tests that are available right now? In my view, there’s no other solution more “warp-speed” than that.
P.S. In the meantime, it’s imperative for you to continue supporting and boosting your immune system as we continue weathering this fight—and as we approach yet another cold and flu season. I outline all of my top immune health recommendations in my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. To learn more about this comprehensive guide, click here now!
“Cheap, frequent COVID tests could be ‘akin to vaccine,’ professor says.” The Harvard Gazette, 08/11/2020. (news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/08/cheap-daily-covid-tests-could-be-akin-to-vaccine/)