WSJ: “New” strategy narrows testing focus.

Headline in the WSJ today:


In summary:

The current plan of attack emphasizes social distancing as the primary method to contain the new coronavirus, a shift away from its recent focus on widespread testing as a containment tool.

We don’t want people to focus on testing as a big magic bullet.

Diagnostics are important,  but shouldn’t be the main emphasis. Social distancing is more important to containing community spread of the virus.

The priorities:

Testing will prioritize seniors aged 65 and older, front-line health care workers and patients hospitalized with symptoms


Let’s dig a little deeper…


My take:

In a perfect (?) world, we’d have 300 million reliable self-tests ready to deploy … “make” everybody take one (maybe by making test results a condition of getting the now bandied $1,000 check in the mail) … and force those testing positive into quarantine and retesting.

That way, the “hidden carriers” could be identified and isolated..

But, we don’t have self-tests, we don’t have 300 million reliable test kits of any kind … nor the logistics system to administer them … and, we don’t have the will or the way to coerce 300 million to take a test.

So, we’ve got to prioritize the scarce supply of testing kits.

My top priority would be front-line health care workers.

That makes complete sense to me: (1) by definition, they’re constantly exposed to the virus, and (2) they’re valuable, scarce resources.

In fact, I’d broaden that group to include any caregivers to “vulnerable” people, i.e. caregivers in eldercare facilities  and in-home caregivers to vulnerables.

The principle: avoid exposing vulnerables to “hidden carriers”.

I wouldn’t knee-jerk test every symptomatic patient.

Why not?

In a prior post Let’s make COVID testing actionable… I pointed out that testing symptomatic patients is a waste of test kits unless the treatment plan will change based on the test results.


Bottom line: From the get-go, I bought into broadscale testing conceptually (especially testing of asymptomatics) , but I didn’t think it was feasible … so I didn’t consider it a panacea.

So, the evolving thinking is making more sense to me.


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One Response to “WSJ: “New” strategy narrows testing focus.”

  1. Victor Bary Says:

    Agree. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is no pill to cure COVID-19 at present, so the only point to testing is to identify who should immediately self-quarantine. Those who have serious health issues as a result of COVID-19 will be placed in ICUs which are simply self-quarantines with better respiratory support equipment.

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