Friday, September 10, 2021

Biden's speech takes up Rapid Tests, which could have major implications for everyone if we can't depend on the vaccines indefinitely


Sesquehanna River bridge, PA

Biden’s speech, which many on the right are calling “totalitarian”, did mention the idea of expanding the use of rapid tests, after scaling up production, as proposed in 2020 by epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina at Harvard, before we had experience with the vaccines. 

A truly wartime footing for doing almost every day tests could have been imagined if vaccines had not been useful, and still could come up if further mutations escape vaccines entirely.  We’re quite afar from wartime production of home tests, as in this Business Insider assessment. 

The idea was that everyone get used to testing themselves daily, just the way diabetics must now for blood sugar or women do sometimes for pregnancy. 

In theory, if everyone carried their infection status around on a phone all the time, businesses could stay open and we would not need lockdowns.

But there would be quarantines.  Based on the medicine at the time, there could be a legal requirement to be isolated for ten days at least, even without symptoms. That might be backed up by automated contact tracing as in South Korea in 2020, or by draconian steps as in South Australia now.   What if an appliance breaks?  How are errands run?  In theory, everyone would seem to need to have some pod-based backup plan, but many of us don’t have the social capital to set that up.

There is still a conceptual question:  are we really better off if everyone develops some immunity, however imperfect, through both vaccination and gradual exposure (“variolation”)?   I think we are, but this has been a closer call than for comfort.

It seems infeasible to do what New Zealand and Australia tried to do, which was Zero Covid, on the theory that any infected person is like a “cancer cell” in society, to be erased by some kind of societal chemotherapy.

But what if we did have a virus with asymptomatic spread and later near certain disability or death? Somewhat like the movie “Contagion”?

There are viruses around the world that threaten that (like nipah) but which fortunately have never been quite that infectious in general circulation.

That ‘s one question I still have for all the people who defend every last line of individual liberty. 

In the current situation, someone in my situation (with no pod) has an incentive not to be tested (I am fully vaccinated as of March 18) if I suspect exposure and have only trivial symptoms.  For example, I still run numerous websites and other activities.  What if there is a major failure of my own infrastructure and I need to make trips to get things fixed?  Theoretically, letting my operate “alone” as I do carries a potential risk.

All of these thoughts indeed – as I see Tim Pool’s tweet, “I will not comply”, or this one .  Again – being vaccinated might not get you out of having to be tested all the time given the scenarios we could imagine.  Pool says “move to the mountains if you’re scared”.

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