A renewed call for more rapid COVID-19 tests

The U.S. needs far more rapid COVID-19 tests than are currently available to help curb the spread of disease during the Delta surge and beyond, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health expert.

Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology who has long advocated for the wide availability of inexpensive rapid COVID-19 tests, said in a September 14, 2021, NPR interview that he is supportive of President Biden’s action plan to increase the accessibility and availability of such tests. But he is worried about shortages, in part because Biden’s mandate also calls for workers at large companies to get vaccinated or face weekly testing, which could place a huge strain on the nation’s supply of quick tests.

“We are about to see what I think is going to be another testing crisis in this country,” he said. “Unfortunately, we do not have the scale of either [rapid or PCR] tests to be able to get fast turnaround time.”

In a September 10, 2021, Ideas article in Time magazine, Mina and co-author Stephen Phillips of the COVID Collaborative called for a robust national plan to massively scale up production and distribution of rapid COVID-19 tests.

“Inexpensive, easy, fast and accurate at-home tests provide actionable results in minutes, not days,” they wrote. “They can be used in or out of the home to provide real-time information on whether someone is infectious. If I’m negative, I go to school; I go to the family birthday party; I go to work. If I’m positive, I stay home and isolate. Individuals, families, parents of schoolchildren, employees, diners—virtually everyone—can markedly increase physical safety and mental well-being by having access to rapid tests. It is a pandemic game-changer.”

Listen to or read the NPR interview: An Epidemiologist Says At-Home Testing Is Key To Stopping COVID

Read the Time magazine Ideas piece: The U.S. Needs an Operation Warp Speed for Rapid COVID-19 Testing