Opinion: Covid at home test – How to win

At home covid testing has to catch up, catch up really fast if we are to reduce the spread of the next possibly worse mutation. We are not talking about getting rid of Covid at this time, just making sure we survive this pandemic. The question becomes how to make at home testing a mandatory thought in people’s minds on a daily basis? Like brushing teeth as an example of a daily activity that we follow.

We need to make rapid tests

  • Easy to use with trustable results
  • Free or very affordable
  • Easily available

Easy to use with trustable results is the ultimate goal. The Antigen tests should hopefully get to PCR level of infection confirmation in the future. For now, multiple Antigen testing is the key to a successful confirmation be it positive or negative. How can we make this Antigen test easier and part of our daily lives? Saliva Testing. As a daily activity, saliva testing is less intrusive, you brush your teeth before bed time and in the morning, spit on testing strip, continue your brushing as the rapid test kit does its job. With results you can plan your next day. These diagnostics kits will only improve over time. Perhaps in the near future we will see results in fraction of the time it takes currently and frequency between test is 10-12 hours instead of days. Until then, we can spend 15-30 minutes waiting for a result and take the tests days apart.

Free or very affordable. The government should offer Free or affordable at home testing in the following ways.

  1. Government buys from the private sector and distributes them
  2. Government subsidizes the purchase
  3. Government and Insurance industry collaborate to reimburse purchases
  4. Government along with retail industry coordinate to make pricing affordable
  5. Government developes its own test using public funds and open sources the content for anyone to manufacture the tests.
  6. Government instead of buying tests from the private sector, buys the Intellectual Property from the private sector and open source the content
  7. Government should provide tax credits 2x the value of tests a person has purchased and used and reported their results to a government built site.

The first 4 above are currently in play, how effective this will be, only time will tell.

The government purchase and distribute plan is a good start but unsustainable and slow. According to current release of tests, about 50 million tests will be bought and sent to the states, that’s roughly 1 million test per state. That’s not going to be enough. To expand this purchase and distribute exponentially to cover a decent amount of population will become an absurd cost and a logistic nightmare.

The subsidization is a short term, shot in the arm, subsidization cannot be justified forever, with the way it looks currently Covid is poised to be here for the long haul. The government changes, each change of government changes its priorities and subsidization items usually gets the cut first. To rely on subsidies as a long term goal is a fools errand.

The coordination between insurance companies and government is still a struggle. Long term this will work, but cost will be high. Many vulnerable people will fall through the net of the insurance companies ever changing rules of “covered” or “not covered” with premium fluctuations connected to a person doing X number of tests per month is more risky to them compared to the person who does not. Do we want our population to be more scrutinzed by their insurance than we already are? We still have to see what the deal the govement has struck with the insurance companies to forbid such activity.

For the government to make their own generic antigen test and detection system and to provide a platform for manufacturers to follow is a task that should be taken by someone brave inside the government. This will create a competitive market for testing production between the manufacturers and should bring down the costs tremendously. Any small local manufacturer can produce the same quality of test made by nationwide manufacturer based on the government specification. To date, there has been no country that has created a generic antigen test and open sourced its detection method. Each country relies on their country’s manufacturers’ IP(Intellectual property) to build the detection method. The only winners in this situation are multinational companies. Small manufacturers and inventors cannot compete with government subsidized contracts for big businesses.

Government purchasing intellectual property and open sources for the betterment of the Populus is an option to save subsidized funds. Instead of ccontinuously subsidizing, there could be a onetime purchase of IP and released.

Tax credits as an incentive for people to test often might be a key to mass testing adoption. This loop of buying test and getting tax credits will give a better understanding of the testing taking place in society. The more data there is about testing the better a government can prepare their Populus safety.

If there are small and large manufacturers competing to get their test in front of the people, production quantity will increase and easy availability can be achieved.