Tests for corona will be part of the boot kit for surviving this

cancer institute vintage photo

We’ve learned over the years that knowing if we have it or not is the best prevention.

Okay so the skies are clear, and dolphins have returned to the water of Venice. We are at home with our kids and when we are not on Zoom trying on the next seminar (how about learning how to be a solar energy engineer?) –– some parts of the world are working day and night to solve covid-19. It can be solved and it can be done in record time compared to other pandemics. Meanwhile we wait it out. 

One of the most terrible factors with this pandemic is the fear factor and facing the unknown. Will I have toilet paper, will I run out of yeast? There are solvable problems for all of these questions. Consider the water bidet that half the world already uses, that yeast can be culled for free in the air, and hey –– it’s Victory Garden and seed planting time. Worried about food? Grow your own. Our grandparents and parents did it. 

People in the prime of their lives, or essential care workers in hospitals are being quarantined if they came in contact with a covid-19 patient unknowingly. A lot of harm to the healthcare system and to the economy could be put at ease if there were easier and more rapid tests the population could take. 

There are companies –– and even amateur scientists who see how it’s done –– who have been working on quick tests to see if you have been exposed to covid-19. One biohacker in Sydney put together the materials to make 500 test kits. But the challenge is scaling up production fast with so much of China offline, while setting distribution targets that will get the test out there. In the United States the FDA needs to check the validity of tests before they go to consumers or hospitals, and they are one of the most rigorous testing bodies in the world. What America does everyone follows. 

The New Scientist and other news outlets claim that a home blood test could be available at Boots, a UK pharmacy chain, and on Amazon by as early as today. While this is a quick and temporary option, nothing compares to robust lab equipment, used by laboratories and by companies that are working to find a vaccine or an antidote to corona. Quick home test kits are much less than shrunk down and less robust versions of the lab equipment called a PCR machine which is made by companies like Stilla Technologies. PCR machines amplify DNA found in blood or mucous to determine if it’s been altered by the virus. 

Now if we thought the fight for toilet paper was bad…Fact: a single prick blood test, like that used by people with diabetes, has been developed. In many places around the world. Also fact, we don’t know when we will all get one, or two or three. We will need multiples if we want all clear for resuming a fraction of our normal lives until herd immunity or a vaccine is made. 

Tests are good but are not a solution: The tests are expected to reveal if you have been exposed to the virus already but what it won’t do is spare you from reinfection. Scientists still haven’t figured out what reinfection rates are, and if immunity will protect you from covid-19’s tragic outcomes.

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