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Legislative and Regulatory Steps for a National COVID-19 Testing Strategy

Mark McClellan, Caitlin Rivers, Christina Silcox
Date posted:
August 11, 2020
Publication type:
White paper
Duke | Margolis Center for Health Policy
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To curb the spread of disease and open the economy, the U.S. must implement a national strategy to increase testingof both symptomatic and asymptomatic people while ensuring timely test results. For people with COVID-19 symptoms and people in close contact with known cases, highly accurate laboratory diagnostic tests (“PCR” tests) are required, with results turned around in 24-48 hours to allow effective contact tracing. Better support is also needed for people who face difficulties in isolating if they test positive. For people without symptoms, we also need broad availability of more rapid but sometimes less accuratescreening tests (involving a number of test platforms including pooled PCR, "antigen" tests, and other point-of-care tests) to detect outbreaks sooner and give people more confidence in their workplaces and schools. This is particularly important for high-risk populations such as nursing homes, essential workplaces, and hard-hit communities that currently have limited resources for testing. Financial support for test recipients is needed because screening tests are generally not covered by insurance. Guidance from regulators and public health authorities will also be required on how to use these tests effectively. These tools are needed to control transmission and facilitate safer reopening of schools and workplaces.



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