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Moving forward with the virus

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

I attended a sold-out baseball game in San Diego in August. 43,000 people packed the place, there were no vaccination or testing requirements, and almost nobody wore a mask after entering. The lively crowd enjoyed the full concession options, received a gift Padres backpack, and went home with an exciting 10th inning victory for the home team.

Last week, I attended a 2/3 capacity football game at UH. 6000 vaccinated people sat obediently in their seats wearing masks, not allowed to enjoy even a soft drink or a potato chip. A couple of portable “concession stands” sold water for anyone who did not want to drink from a fountain. Tickets were expensive and the pregame vaccination verification protocol was an added layer of something. Our home team ran out of time on the 18-yard line and everyone shuffled home.

Major League Baseball and major college football teams (except UH) have been packing out stadiums all summer and fall. Has there been a single report of super spreading and doom from these crowded outdoor activities? I can’t find one. When and how will we move forward?

Before anyone gets too fired up with their “freedom” or “safety” position, let’s recognize two things: Covid-19 has disrupted everything and rendered profound losses; and, Covid-19 and its variants are not likely to disappear, so we will have to learn to live with it.

Fortunately, there is a responsible way to move beyond this pandemic: rapid antigen tests. These test kits, which can be found in local pharmacies (when not sold out), reveal within 15 minutes whether or not a person has Covid-19 and is contagious.

With widespread distribution of cheap, rapid, self-administered antigen tests, we could prevent large outbreaks. For example, you wonder if your child was exposed at school yesterday, so you pull out a rapid test and in 15 minutes, from start to finish, you have an answer. Or you hear that someone you recently met is Covid positive, or you want to take extra precautions before visiting someone. In minutes, you will know if you need to stay home and contact your doctor, or you are safe to go about your day. It is that simple.

Regular or periodic testing at home, school or work could serve as sentinels for any circulating virus. PCR tests that take days for results are useless for timely, actionable information. If vaccinated people can also be spreaders, then we really need a testing program for everyone. Rapid antigen testing can help snuff out the spread.

Dr. Michael Mina has been championing rapid antigen testing for more than a year. He offers a logical policy direction to help get us back to regular living. Look him up and read more about this important protocol that we have yet to effectively support.

Quoting Dr. Mina, “certain segments of the population are not the problem. The problem is the virus. The only solution we have for a public health problem like this is the public. And rapid, at-home tests are the exact kinds of tools that allow the public to feel empowered to take control of their slice. And if enough of the public does do that, then the slices add up and we’re taking care of the whole pandemic.”

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