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The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back

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The Plan That Could Give Us Our Lives Back

The US has never had enough coronavirus tests. Now a group of epidemiologists, economists and dreamers is plotting a new strategy to defeat the virus, even before a vaccine is found.

The Atlantic,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Tests to see who is contagious for COVID, rather than who has had it, are needed to stem the pandemic.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is not going to go away on its own. The only way to stem it is to test a lot of people, often, so people know who has the virus and should self-isolate. PCR tests take a long time, and detect tiny amounts of viral genetic material for months after an infected person can still transmit the virus. As Alexis C. Madrigal and Robinson Meyer report in The Atlantic, Antigen tests are better suited to quickly determine who is contagious. They can contribute to keeping society as a whole healthy and safe.


Testing is essential to stem the tide of any pandemic.

If you don’t know who has COVID-19, you can’t stop COVID-19’s spread. And you don’t know who has COVID-19 because there isn’t enough testing. Even those who do get tested aren’t getting their results back quickly enough to make a difference. People weren’t getting tested enough at the beginning of the pandemic, and aren’t getting tested enough now.

Part of the problem is that there aren’t enough lab machines, tools and chemicals to run all the tests required. But mostly this problem is rampant because the federal government has not mustered the will to make testing a part of people’s daily life. Only when testing is widespread and easy to access will the pandemic abate, and only the federal government has the ability to coordinate the enormous manufacturing effort such mass testing requires.

PCR testing, the FDA’s gold standard, won’t stop or even slow the spread of COVID-19.

The current test for COVID-19, a PCR test, identifies a minute amount of the virus’s genetic material in an individual...

About the Authors

Robinson Meyer is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers climate change and technology. Alexis C. Madrigal is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology.

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