Obama: Robust coronavirus testing and monitoring the key to reopening country

Obama: Robust coronavirus testing and monitoring the key to reopening country
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Former President Obama warned Wednesday that despite early indications that social distancing measures are effective in stemming the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., lifting them before robust testing and monitoring take place could undo the progress.

“Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic medical professionals,” Obama tweeted Wednesday. “But in order to shift off current policies, the key will be a robust system of testing and monitoring – something we have yet to put in place nationwide.”

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The former president linked to a New York Times article in his post outlining speculation by public health experts on when and how the national economy will be reopened. The process will likely be gradual and state-by-state, in contrast to the mass shutdowns caused by the pandemic, the article speculates, and will likely come only once a state’s hospitals are equipped to safely treat all patients.

Other milestones that will likely have to be achieved before any reopening include increased ability to test everyone with symptoms. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said the nation would need to be able to run 750,000 tests per week.

The Times also writes that states must see a “sustained” drop in confirmed cases for at least 14 days, as well as a robust system of monitoring traces and contacts among people confirmed to have the virus.

Obama had urged for social distancing measures to remain in place in late March, highlighting news coverage of the burden the crisis has placed on New York health care workers.

“It's only going to get harder across the country. Another reason to maintain social distancing policies at least until we have comprehensive testing in place. Not just for our sake—for theirs,” he said in a March 25 tweet.