Opinion | Let’s Get Real About Coronavirus Tests – The New York Times

By Michael T. Osterholm and 

Mr. Osterholm is an infectious disease expert. Mark Olshaker is a writer and documentary filmmaker.

Credit…China Daily/Reuters

“In the world’s ongoing quest to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, one of the tools most often invoked and hailed is testing — testing for current infections, to determine who is ill and contagious, and testing for antibodies, a sign of past infection and possibly, too, of future immunity.

The goal is to identify people who might spread the virus and isolate them, and to allow anyone protected from reinfection to resume an active social and professional life.

Democrats in the United States Senate have proposed a plan for “fast, free testing in every community.” At a recent news briefing, Andrew M. Cuomo, the governor of New York State, declared: “The more testing, the more open the economy.” President Trump’s new business advisory council has warned that the American economy will not rebound until wide-scale screening takes place.

But there are major problems with this approach. Far too few tests are available in the United States. Some are shoddy. Even the ones that are precise aren’t designed to produce the kind of definitive yes-no results that people expect.”