Urgent Care & Medical Walk in Clinic in Oakhurst, NJ and Toms River, NJ
Covid-19 – Testing and Staying Safe in New Jersey
The Importance of Covid-19 Testing – Schedule A Test Today!
It’s hard to overemphasize the challenge of stopping a pandemic. Especially when Covid-19 is a new virus that’s almost perfectly optimized for infecting huge numbers of the population, with no vaccine, no cure, and no widespread immunity. Controlling and slowing the spread of this pandemic, alongside social distancing measures, is reliant on finding and then isolating everyone who is infected until they are no longer able to spread the disease.
How Does Covid-19 Testing Work?
Until we have a readily available and effective vaccine, knowing who currently has and who has had this respiratory infection is key to saving thousands of lives and then reopening the economy. For this to work, we critically need the supply of two different tests: a diagnostic test that will show if someone currently has an active COVID-19 infection, and an antibody test that will show if someone contracted this virus in the past. A diagnostic test is carried out by a physician who swabs the nose or the throat of a patient to find out if there is any viral genetic material which determines whether or not someone actively has COVID-19. In contrast, an antibody test is carried out by taking a blood sample from someone and adding a sample of virus to see if any antibodies attach themselves and bind to the virus.
The antibody test works because once the infection has been cleared, antibodies remain in the blood so that if they were exposed to Covid-19 again, they would effectively stop the virus from being able to cause any harm. So if someone’s blood sample has antibodies which bind to the virus sample, it’s a positive indication that they’ve previously infected.
How Widespread Should Covid-19 Testing Be?
This is the billion-dollar question right now, which many health officials seem to be hesitant to provide a definitive answer to. That’s because unfortunately at the moment the number of tests that we need is unclear. All we do know is that for the US to end this pandemic, we need to actively seek out as many potential spreaders as possible, especially asymptomatic spreaders.
The health sector is currently focused on only testing patients who are either symptomatic or who believe they might have been exposed to the virus. That, unfortunately, leaves a huge section of the US population untested, any of whom could potentially be spreading the disease. What health officials do know for sure is that testing must occur on a much larger scale than it is before we can relax or maybe replace the requirement for social distancing.
Unfortunately, there are simply not enough tests available in America to meet all of the current clinical needs, let alone any widespread testing of the rest of the population.
To ensure the end of this crisis, keep deaths as low as possible, and then allow the economy to reopen so it can recover, testing has to happen on a truly enormous scale involving huge numbers of people. Benchmarks on the lower-end estimate that we will need at least 750,000 tests on average per week, whereas the higher end proposal begins at around 22 million tests each day and only goes up from there. And that’s not only allowing for testing each person once, but repeatedly testing everyone over time until the entire pandemic is truly over.
Other developed countries around the world who have managed to keep both their infected numbers and their deaths tolls low such as South Korea, Iceland, and Germany, have all tested a much greater percentage of their population than we have in the United States. This proves that widespread testing is the key to helping our communities identify infected people as fast as possible, which allows contact tracing and isolation.
Where Are We At?
The US is currently struggling to test 100,000 people each day, so getting us to the scale many researchers are suggesting would mean a massive increase in capacity. This amount of testing would require a huge increase in government funding, with a massive amount of workers being trained to administer them, as well as the coordination of manufacturing and delivery of these tests across the country. But despite the immense social and financial costs involved with the creation of a nationally based testing system, it may be the easiest and the cheapest path to getting our lives back.