Erik Larson 0

COVID-19 Moonshot: 30M Tests In 30 Days. Go, go, go! Let's beat Iceland!

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Like the proverb of the man in the parking lot searching for his keys beneath the light pole, we are looking where we can see and not where the keys can be found.

Let's stop arguing about what to do based on bad data, and start getting the complete data we need.

Today's numbers about the epidemic tell us nothing about the rate of infection or the deadliness of the disease globally or locally. Why? Because, for the most part, we have no information about the prevalence the infection or how fast the virus is spreading in the general population.

In the whole world, there are only two places that can reasonably claim to be taking a scientific approach to those problems at this point: Iceland and the Faeroe Islands. Both have tested about 3% of their populations (that’s about 6X better than South Korea, 12X better than Italy, 14X better than Germany and 100X better than the US).

Iceland is tough competition, but we can take them. Heck, let's dream big and pass the Faeroe Islands! This is one competition where EVERYONE wins.

Let's inspire the world with virus science just like NASA did with rocket science, with an even faster high-stakes moonshot right here on Earth.

We should still do testing of sick people to support healthcare decisions as we are today. We should do more testing of exposed people for containment like in South Korea and Germany are doing. But that testing doesn't help much with the broader governmental and societal decisions we need to make. We must do more. Embrace the "and." No more "or."

Since everything is moving so fast, just keep it bold and simple:

Race For COVID-19 Truth -- Test 30 Million People In 30 Days : Test a random 10% sample of the entire population of 10 medium-sized US counties near the current COVID-19 outbreaks in the next 10 days, for both current infection and antibodies. The CA, NY and WA outbreaks are luckily near clusters of biotech companies, plus throw in MN and IL. Use the power of the federal government to draft and indemnify those companies and people to apply their entire laboratory workforces to the testing (other than people working on COVID therapies and vaccines). Expand it to 10% of the entire country, 30M people, in the 30 days, sampling across every zip code and major demographic. Do100% by summer if needed. How? Remember Apollo 13. Relax today's FDA constraints on healthcare-related tests and let the scientists' ingenuity figure out how to solve the problem of mass random testing -- inspire them to create reagents and equipment and protocols, challenge each others’ hypothesis and data, and inform our decisions. In an American spirit, make it not about what's in the book or what the bosses say, make it about what works.

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