New York invested $750,000 in Rheonix, an Ithaca-based manufacturer, to build lab instruments and make reagent kits, which are now being used for thousands of tests daily. States should tap their local manufacturing companies to compensate for international shortages, and Congress should allocate funding for businesses that fill these needs.
Invest in innovative solutions. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved pooled testing, where multiple samples are run at once, increasing capacity and saving lab supplies. But for one national lab, the approved pool size is just four samples. In Wuhan, China, up to 10 specimens were pooled, allowing the city to increase its capacity to 1.5 million tests daily, up from 46,000 tests daily.
The federal government should direct research money so that labs can increase their pool size, while ensuring accuracy. With flu season on the way, Congress and federal agencies should also invest in developing widely available single tests that can detect multiple respiratory viruses, including the coronavirus and different types of influenza.
Congress should also invest in developing more tests that can give results in minutes and that can be administered at workplaces, not just labs. The F.D.A. has approved only a handful of these devices, and they are not widely available.
Fund all necessary testing. Currently, under federal rules, “medically necessary” testing is free for those with Covid-19 symptoms, as well as asymptomatic people who have been exposed to the virus.
But states should be able to conduct broad community screening — 40 percent of infected people are asymptomatic — to detect the virus and control its spread. For example, Congress should ensure testing is free for individuals who attend mass gatherings, regularly ride public transportation or interact with members of the public at work.
New York is proof that a real testing strategy can control Covid-19. But our future success depends on other states to do the same — a virus anywhere is a virus everywhere.