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Rapid screening tests that prioritize speed over accuracy could be key to ending the coronavirus pandemic

Rapid screening tests that prioritize speed over accuracy could be key to ending the coronavirus pandemic

Author

  1. Zoë McLaren

Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Disclosure statement

Zoë McLaren does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

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Broad access to testing is one of the most powerful tools to keep the COVID-19 pandemic under control until there’s an effective vaccine in use. Diagnostic testing, which is used in medical settings to determine whether someone is infected with the coronavirus, is costly, slow and overstretched in the U.S. But that’s not the only type of test that can be used.

I study public health policy to combat infectious disease epidemics. To slow the spread of the virus, public health programs need to catch more COVID-19 cases and catch them before they spread. Innovative screening tests offer promise because they are inexpensive, rapid, easily mass produced and don’t require laboratory processing. They can be implemented at large scale for frequent testing in schools, workplaces, airports and even at home. With screening tests, huge numbers of people could be tested regularly and contagious people would be identified before they could spread the virus far and wide.

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What role should businesses play?

I believe that businesses are one of the greatest platforms for change. And that we all have a role to play based on our unique skills and core competencies. For Salesforce, it’s leveraging our technology, our people, and influence to drive positive change.

When a crisis arises, Salesforce takes action. I’m proud of how Salesforce jumped into action to help combat COVID-19, securing over 50m units of PPE for over 300 healthcare facilities, putting technology in the hands of our students and teachers, supporting local business through small business grants, and working to address racial inequality inside and beyond our four walls.

As we face down a number of intertwined crises – from health and economic, to inequality and leadership – now is the time for businesses to reassess their values and think about how to become more responsible and sustainable, now and for future generations. We must ask ourselves where we can have the most influence, and act, so that we can start driving towards a healthier and more resilient future. Solving the climate crisis will address inequality and racism, strengthen the economy, and promote global health. But, the clock is ticking. Failure to address the climate crisis at the scale and speed necessary threatens the future of humanity.

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