It has become clear that our nation was not ready for a global pandemic on the scale of COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020 our medical professionals struggled to obtain personal protective equipment, our hospitals ran out of available beds and life-saving ventilators, and even diagnostic tests were in short supply. While improvements have been made in many areas, testing shortages still prove to be a tremendous problem.
If we are unable to test people for the disease, then someone experiencing minor or even zero symptoms might unknowingly spread the disease to others. Extensive testing is the only way to make smart decisions based on who needs to quarantine and who can get away with continuing to lead a normal life for the time being. Earlier this year, South Korea tested 15,000 people a day and was able to largely control the spread of this disease.
In July of this year, labs everywhere were experiencing a shortage of pipette tips. They are minuscule pieces of lab equipment designed to precisely move liquid from one location to another. That shortage alone led to thousands of people going without tests they needed or struggling through testing delays. In addition to missing out on vital pipette’s scientists were left without machines, containers, and the chemicals needed to process COVID-19 tests
Right now, the problem with testing is that many testing facilities are completely at capacity. There are more than 16 million reported COVID-19 cases in the United States currently, and those who cannot obtain tests represent thousands if not millions more unreported cases.
The tragic thing is that on any given day, time limits how many tests can actually be administered. Most locations are limited to 2,000 to 4,000 daily tests based on manpower. Laboratory shortages impact how many tests can actually be processed, and right now there are simply too many people in need of tests. If we could regularly test everyone in the nation, we would be armed with the knowledge we need to selectively shut down certain areas based on disease rate. The goal would be to control the spread of the virus to such a significant extent that it starts to die off. But without proper testing, that is simply not possible.At-home testing is a viable solution for getting more tests administered at once than ever before. If people are responsible for collecting their own samples, then the manpower that had previously gone to test administration can be reallocated to lab work. People can manage their own health from home and simply send their biological samples to a lab for quicker processing. At this point in the pandemic, at-home testing may be the only thing that can arm us with the knowledge we need to shorten the life cycle of this pandemic. Anyone who is able should be expected to perform regular at-home tests on themselves. The more we know, the more we can do to stop this disease in its tracks.