One Man's Opinion: Testing, Tracing and Fears, Oh My!!!

Though 9-weeks seems a world way, it is helpful to recall that our self-imposed quarantine and national lock-down was about 'flattening the curve,' to prevent an unmanageable and perhaps much the more fatal surge of COVID19 cases, overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system during this pandemic.

COVID19 testing, both public and private has ramped up considerably across the state, ranging from free drive-in testing offered by the state of Georgia and staffed by medical professionals and the National Guard, to private sector options offered by CVS, Walgreen, Emory Healthcare and others.

While a positive, false positive or a negative result may follow, those results are a specific snapshot of that testing day. Absent continued quarantine, infection is possible later that same day in an unprotected or non-hygienic environment, or from the sneeze droplets of an asymptomatic individual behind you in line at the grocery store...as social distancing spaces begin to erode and contract. The best minds in bio-science and pharmacy in the world or on this case, and collapsing typical testing timelines, but as those vaccines will later be injected into humans, we also do not want to rush a treatment or cure which might later prove to do more harm than good.

Anti-body testing shows promise, but is also rife with current tests wrongly indicating that the common cold (a different corona virus) or certain other viral strains are giving false-positive antibody test results. And on the treatment front, once fighting the virus, several drug therapies show promise, but again there is yet no silver bullet.

As each state wrangles with the assembly of its own Contact Tracing apparatus, I’d like to suggest a quick fix and a more viable solution. The U.S. Department of Commerce has already hired and is training 400,000 temporary workers (NOT A TYPO) for conducting field interviews to gather data for the U.S. Census. During a normal census year, those temps would be going door to door. The Census deadline has been extended, and most follow up work is now being conducted by phone, Email and other online methods. The as yet not entirely expended budget for our 2020 Census will be close to $16-billion, again, not a typo and for comparison purposes, prior to this pandemic, the budget for the entire state of Georgia for the next fiscal year was going to be $27-28-billion. These workers have already been hired and phone follow up for the U.S. Census is already underway. It seems a logical fit.

Fear has always been among the most powerful and effective tools as a catalyst for behavior modification. The multi-million deaths projections of 8-9 weeks ago certainly had the desired effect, and most Americans stayed home...religiously.

But now, as it becomes equally important to begin the process of renewing and jump-starting our economy, it would be EQUALLY helpful to better disseminate data regarding patient recoveries and to tell and share success stories, as we have seen so effectively used in fundraising for treatments and cures of other chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson's. Americans NEED to be able to better visualize, as is now the case with both HIV and AIDS, that a COVID19 diagnosis, as with cancer, no longer means a death sentence.

As roughly 70 percent of GDP is consumer spending and behavior, it will require a major push regarding the relative safety, new sanitizing and hygiene procedures becoming pervasive and commonplace, AND stronger herd immunity as well as eventually successful treatments and a vaccine, before all Americans will again feel safe setting foot outside their front doors. We are not going to have a vaccine for fear anytime soon either, and virtually no one wants to unnecessarily risk the health and well being of a more fragile loved one. We may be in this for the long haul though and placing our seniors and the medically fragile somewhat apart from the rest of us for a time may be the only practical long-term solution as we plan for the virus and its likely return this fall.

This nation has weathered worse, and through a combination of self-sacrifice, community spirit and grit, we have almost always come together and pulled through. At least with family and your neighbors, let us all try to focus on our many commonalities, look out for and protect the weak, and take your common sense, as well as your mask, gloves and newly enhanced public hygiene habits as you begin to venture out. The curve has been flattened, now let’s reboot our economy.

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