Free testing for the coronavirus: A first big step

potential latency into functions quarantine violations Coronavirus panic Free Testing voluntary quarantineTerriAnneAllen / Pixabay

Why free testing will be needed to win the battle against coronavirus.

Clearly, during these last few months, President Trump has been asleep at the wheel the gathering health crisis known as the coronavirus spread across the globe. Until this week, his main observation was that the effects of the virus would blow over by April, as warmer weather set in.

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Coronavirus Pandemic Is Overblown

There is a chance that President Donald Trump could be right: The threat of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic is overblown, and the United States will escape relatively unscathed.

But he is almost certainly far too optimistic. There is a great risk that hundreds – or even thousands of Americans – will die from this rapidly spreading illness.

While Trump has grudgingly consented to half-measures such as tripling the funding in his budget proposal for protecting against the spread of the coronavirus, his administration has almost completely neglected a key protective measure taken by many other nations.

That would be testing every person who either shows symptoms of having this virus or had come in contact with anyone who had contracted the virus. Why? Because these are the most reliable means of stopping it from spreading.

This measure should have been introduced on the national level months ago, and not been left up to individual states to enact. Only the federal government can provide all the necessary resources.

It should provide free testing for the coronavirus to every American. And yet, even that would not be enough.

Providing free testing for the coronavirus

Our jury-rigged healthcare system – which not only leaves 27 million Americans without medical insurance, but also leaves over 100 million more with burdensome deductibles and co-payments. Close to half our population is uninsured or underinsured.

So even if the federal government were to provide free testing for the coronavirus, tens of millions of Americans would still be confronted by associated charges often totaling hundreds of dollars at hospitals and urgent care facilities. These would include charges for hospital outpatient and Emergency Room visits and blood tests. So, even with free coronavirus testing, these associated charges would discourage many people from being tested.

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence, who President Trump appointed to oversee our national response to the coronavirus threat, disclosed that we do not have enough test kits to meet the anticipated demand.

Would it be impolite to ask why, at this late stage, we are in this predicament? Or is this just another “Democrat hoax”?

So, here’s our problem in a nutshell: First, we’ve got begin mass-producing millions of test-kits. And despite the president’s sunny forecasts, we have got to make up for months of dithering and be ready to test millions of Americans.

Prevent The Spread Of The Virus

The only way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to test every person who has flu-like symptoms or has been exposed to the virus. But unless the test were free – and all associated costs were fully covered -- many highly susceptible Americans would still think twice before submitting to testing.

In an authoritarian nation like China, mandatory testing and quarantining have been highly successful in bringing this epidemic under control. But the United States, even under President Trump – has not yet succumbed to authoritarian rule.

Despite being given the advice of medical researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies, President Trump has chosen to ignore much of it, while placing the lives of countless Americans at risk.

But there’s one thing you can still count on. However many lives are  lost because of his actions or inactions, Trump will be sure to place the blame on others. After all, stable geniuses never need apologize.

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About the Author

Steve Slavin
Steve Slavin has a Ph.D. in economics from NYU, and has written twenty math and economics books, including “The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It, and What We Can Do to Fix it.” The 12th edition of his introductory economics text came out in September.

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