Apr 21, 2020 - Health

Harvard roadmap: U.S. needs to significantly ramp up coronavirus testing

A LAFD doctor tests the homeless population in Skidrow during the coronavirus pandemic
Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

The U.S. will need to run 5 million tests a day by early June in order to safely lift social distancing measures, according to a new white paper by Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The state of play: That number will need to increase over the summer to about 20 million a day to fully reopen the economy, the authors argue.

Between the lines: We're nowhere near being able to complete this many tests a day, and yet parts of the country are already taking small steps back toward normalcy.

What they're saying: "The great value of this approach is that it will prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down," the white paper's authors write.

  • "If we rely on collective social distancing alone to tide us over until a vaccine is available, the economy will be shut down on and off for 12 to 18 months, costing trillions of dollars."
  • The widespread testing would need to be combined with contact tracing and isolation for those who have the coronavirus.

Go deeper: We're still behind on coronavirus testing

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