- Mass and frequent rapid testing of COVID-19 can make a big dent in the pandemic within six weeks, a new study claims.
- “Our big picture is that when it comes to public health, it’s better to have a less sensitive test with results today than a more sensitive test with results tomorrow,” said Daniel Larremore, professor of computer science at Colorado University Boulder and leader author of the study.
- Testing 75% of a city’s population every three days would reduce infections by 88%, “enough to drive the epidemic to extinction within six weeks.”
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Massive rapid testing of COVID-1
Published November 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, the study suggests that rapid tests, while less reliable, could allow public health authorities to rely on more targeted interventions rather than financial coverage if used on a massive scale.
Quick tests are low cost and can return results in minutes rather than the days associated with the laboratory variety. If half of the U.S. population were tested weekly with those testing positive isolated from the rest, the impact would be huge, researchers said.
“Our big finding is that when it comes to public health, it’s better to have a less sensitive test with results today than a more sensitive test with results tomorrow,” said Daniel Larremore, professor of computer science at CU Boulder and lead author of the survey, said Friday. “Instead of asking everyone to stay home so you can be sure that someone who is sick is not spreading it, we could only give the infectious people orders at home so everyone else can go about their lives.”
According to the study, based on mathematical modeling, rapid testing of three-quarters of a city’s population every three days cut the number of those ultimately infected by 88%, “sufficient to drive the epidemic to extinction within six weeks.”
“These rapid tests are contagion tests,” Michael Mina, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard and co-author of the study, said in a press release. “They are extremely effective at detecting COVID-19 when people are contagious.”
Increasing the availability of “cheap, quick tests” is one of the key strategies that President-elect Joe Biden is considering, Politico reported on Friday.
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