Testing, Testing, Testing

Not Even the Coronavirus Will Unite America

The US economy can’t reopen without widespread coronavirus testing. Getting there will take a lot of work and money

Trump refuses to lead a country in crisis

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that reopening the economy depends on a program of massive testing. One wonders why it takes a new coronavirus task force of business brains (sans Mitt Romney) to figure this out.

“States can do their own testing,” Trump said. “We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.” Well, there is no way the states and their governors can coordinate and provide the millions of tests per week required. It seems undeniable that any reopening of the economy will result in big spikes in the virus, and who knows how many deaths. Q.E.D.

The Rockefeller Foundation, a major player in health care funding, has a testing proposal.

“It’s going to [initially] cost at least $100 billion and upward of $500 billion over the long haul,” said Eileen O’Connor, senior vice president for communications, policy and advocacy at the Rockefeller Foundation.
The foundation’s plan, which will propose that the cost be financed directly and subsidized by the federal government, estimates that 20 million to 30 million tests each day would need to be performed to get many Americans back to a more normal life.

Their plan will target health care workers first, then food production workers, then truckers. “After that, the goal would be to have tens of millions of tests done every day to have the country fully return to work.” The very idea of implementing such a plan seems totally beyond the thinking of the Trump administration.

At the same time, bureaucratic screwups have made things worse. Nature magazine tells us that their “investigation of several university labs certified to test for the virus finds that they have been held up by regulatory, logistic and administrative obstacles, and stymied by the fragmented US health-care system.”

And the public is so polarized that even a brutal pandemic can’t bring it together. Writing in The Atlantic, Dominic Tierney proposes that nothing short of a powerful human enemy, a Kaiser, a Hitler, will unify the country.

Every aspect of the crisis is colored by partisanship, including beliefs about which information sources to trust and views about who is worthy of federal aid. Even the act of social distancing is political—another way to show tribal colors—as liberals urge people to stay at home and conservatives chafe against government restrictions. The evangelical Liberty University has decided to welcome back thousands of students . . . and has instructed professors to hold office hours in person.

How can one even imagine a program of adequate testing within this kind of tribalism? As the poet said, thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

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