Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said “it’s time for a paradigm shift” when it comes to Covid-19 testing in the US.
He said the federal government needs to step in and distribute faster antigen tests to power through the backlog of testing and get ahead of outbreaks, according to an opinion piece he penned for Time magazine.
With current Covid-19 testing results delayed by days, and in many cases more than a week, due to a critical shortage in testing supplies, Jha said testing is practically useless in identifying who has the virus.
If health officials can’t quickly determine who has the virus and where it is, they can’t prevent the spread, Jha wrote in the op-ed.
“It’s time to radically rethink our approach to testing,” Jha said.
The country needs to switch to faster antigen tests that can quickly return test results, even though the results are not as accurate as the slower polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, he said.
PCR tests require amplification of the virus, a time-consuming process, while antigen tests look for proteins made by the virus.
“By putting a premium on the accuracy of tests, we fail to test a majority of people with Covid-19 and these built in delays actually undermine our ability to timely identify cases which is the key purpose for widespread testing,” Jha wrote in the commentary.