A Finger Prick to Free Us All

Here’s some encouraging news out of London:

The British government is just “days” away from releasing 3.5 million self-administered finger prick tests that could prove a game-changer in easing the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The tests will likely be stocked in retailers like Boots, a major pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom, and available to order online via Amazon, however the first stage of the rollout will be reserved for doctors, nurses and other essential workers.

At first, the tests would be held for critical personnel, but as more are produced, they’ll be available to the general public.

The article emphasizes that people who have the antibodies and are therefore inoculated can get back to work (and, implicitly, economically productive play).  Of course, knowing that they haven’t yet built up an immunity will also help people make decisions about how isolated to make themselves.

This news speaks to a question many families have surely had upon hearing that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has extended the ban on in-person schooling to May 4.  Isn’t that an unnecessarily pessimistic step?  Going forward, a vaccine would be the gold standard relief innovation, but that isn’t the only thing to watch for.  Means of treating the effects of the virus (not only for individuals, but also for hospitals to handle large numbers of cases) are also in the works, and broad availability of tests for live infections and immunity would be hugely helpful in managing the epidemic.

The entire world is focused on this disease.  We’ve already inculcated a sense of the importance of hygiene and social distancing, as well as a practice of self evaluation for symptoms.  If we improve our knowledge about who is infected and who is immune, while we reduce the worst effects for individuals and hospitals or limit the populations who might experience them, restrictions could ease sooner than expected.

Of course, in a situation like this, we shouldn’t count on such outcomes, but we should leave open the possibility.

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