Story at a glance
- A team of medical researchers outlined steps the U.S. can take to make testing more efficient.
A new report commissioned by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota reviewed the coronavirus testing efforts in the U.S., as well as proposed the center’s own “smart testing” approach to allocate tests to minimize instances of illness, death and transmission.
It highlighted that testing for COVID-19 is “highly complex” and requires that health care providers, public health officials and the general public “need to understand the nuances, uses, applications, and limitations of testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 and antibodies to it.” (Read about test results explained.)
Additionally, the report notes that the testing capacity is dependent on the supply chain and availability of medical supplies and materials, as well as essential workers to test.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW
Speaking with CNN, Mike Osterholm, head of the CIDRAP, described current testing efforts in the U.S. as a “mess.”
"Testing is very, very important, but we're not doing the right testing,” he said.
The main point the report makes is to structure COVID-19 testing around clinical care for symptomatic patients, disease surveillance and contact tracing and for exposed health care personnel with mild signs or symptoms.
For asymptomatic patients, CIDRAP authors state that it is “not yet clear” how to effectively test them, but they suggest using contact tracing and, in some situations, congregate settings like homeless shelters or long-term care facilities.
It also notes that antibody test results should be used cautiously. The tests do not confirm an active coronavirus infection, but that someone has been exposed and possibly recovered from one based on the body's immune response. These tests are most helpful for identifying plasma donors or confirming a recent infection.
“For testing to be maximally effective, coordination across the system and across jurisdictions is necessary. Ideally, this requires federal guidance, leadership, and support, with strong jurisdictional buy-in at the state and local levels,” the report authors say.
The analysis concludes with a recommendation that the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) form a “blue ribbon panel” of experts in public health, clinical laboratories and medicine, research and development, law, marketing, ethicists and elected officials. This panel would, among other initiatives, work to develop testing guidelines and strategies, as well as monitor coronavirus outbreaks moving forward.
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC