They All Have Limitations and Other Risks

While I’m on the subject, you might want to take a look at this post at Axios by Caitlin Owens which touches on some points I’ve made here from time to time:

The big picture: Rapid antigen tests are cheaper and get results much faster than polymerase chain reaction tests, which have been the standard in the U.S. for most of the pandemic so far.

  • The downside is that they’re less accurate. That means a certain proportion of people who receive these tests will be told they don’t have the virus when they do, or vice versa. (One of the rapid Abbott tests isn’t an antigen test, but it has similar tradeoffs to antigen tests, at least among asymptomatic people.)
  • Antigen testing is becoming more widespread in the U.S., but there’s no federal strategy for how it should be used. And more than 20 states either don’t release or have incomplete data on the tests, leaving “officials and the public in the dark about the true scope of the pandemic as untold numbers of cases go uncounted,” Kaiser Health News has reported.

Her focus is on why the White House’s testing protocol failed so dramatically but the applicability of her observations are not limited to the White House or to testing. Neither testing, wearing facemasks, social distancing, nor even an effective vaccine is a panacea, not even if they were all used appropriately and effectively, and, indeed, there’s moral hazard associated with each or all of them.

4 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Why the need for a panacea? While I would love to have zero Covid deaths if we can get Covid deaths down to flu levels while not needing lockdowns, masks and distancing I would be pretty happy.


  • In the absence of an effective vaccine, I think the likelihood of that outcome is quite low and an effective vaccine may never be developed, indeed, I think that should be the assumption. I suspect that the combined effect of the avoidance measures is probably 25% reduction in deaths or less. That would still be a multiple of the deaths due to the seasonal flu.

    One thing interesting around here. I don’t see any differences in compliance aligning with political differences in any notable way. Unless, of course, you believe that Trump is going to carry Chicago’s Northwest Side. I would happily take the under on that.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I agree w/ the analogy to face masks, which I think are somewhat overrated, but I think antigen tests are underrated. The linked piece has an expert doom-monger say that these tests will kill people. I don’t recall that being said about masks.

    All tests only tell people what can be known at the time of the test within the bounds of its accuracy. This is not a problem with the test: “a certain proportion of people who receive these tests will be told they don’t have the virus when they do.” That’s a problem with people saying these things, assuming this isn’t just made up.

    We just had another large outbreak in our community, this time at a home for developmentally disabled men. They test everyone weekly, which is better than no testing, but not as good as high frequency testing. Three have died so far. Experts trying to block high-frequency testing are going to kill people, if they haven’t already.

    I also believe CDC does not think asymptomatic spread is strong as symptomatic, and its not like other testing is addressing the issue of asymptomatic spread. The traditional testing regime is people get tested after symptoms. CDC believes 50% of transmissions occur before symptom onset, and I think other studies have shown transmission is greatest around the time of onset.

  • Greyshambler Link

    We’re done.
    Ten years from now we’ll still see the daily death count and argue over lockdowns and masks.
    China has found our Achilles heel. We say we love freedom but shirk at paying the price. Ironically, Trump the fascist tyrant touts loose restrictions and individual choices for Covid safety.
    But Progressive voters prefer a Federal strongman setting mask and gathering mandates to assure our safety.
    Xi knows that Americans will happily accept enforced social Harmony If faced with personal danger.

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