Government Agencies Are Holding Back ‘Fast Tests’ that Could Be Saving Lives

Fast, convenient, inexpensive, frequent tests could make all the difference. Businesses have developed them, but bureaucrats insist on getting in the way.

By James Anthony – September 19, 2020

At first glance, recent headlines on fast tests look like great news: “U.S. Approves Abbott Labs $5 Rapid Covid-19 Test For ‘Mass Scale’ Use”; “White House Signs $750 Million Deal with Abbott Labs to Buy 150 Million Rapid Coronavirus Tests.”

It is great news that there’s a test. It’s also terrible news that fast tests are controlled fully by bureaucrats instead of freely-deciding customers and business people.

What’s seen in these headlines is that one business got one fast test approved. What’s unseen is that the government is effectively blocking customers from directly buying this particular fast test, blocking customers from using it themselves, and blocking businesses from producing any other fast tests.

If people were free to sell, buy, and use fast tests, this would save many lives.

How to Save Lives

SARS-CoV-2 kills very few younger people, but many older people.

Older people need to live through this coronavirus. Younger people need to build immunity while they’re young and at negligible risk. All people need to get to where we live with this coronavirus like we live with all other infectious diseases.

To best live through and then live with this coronavirus requires two actions:

  1. Isolate older people until younger people build immunity that minimizes outbreaks
  2. Provide all possible therapies fast to all people who catch SARS-CoV-2.

To isolate older people, ideally any person who could infect an older person would first check whether he’s infectious so he could keep away. To provide therapies fast, ideally any person would be able, as often as he chooses, to check whether he might be infected so he can get therapies as soon as possible.

Both ideals would be realized by fast, convenient, inexpensive, frequent tests. Fast tests are sensitive to high viral loads, so they’re sensitive to exactly what makes a person infectious. If the tests are convenient and inexpensive, they can be performed frequently, so they’re sensitive to exactly when a person is infectious.

The technology is here, but the freedom to use it isn’t.

Customers need to be free to buy fast tests, businesses need to be free to sell fast tests, and customers need to be free to use fast tests.

Customers know a huge amount of detailed information about their daily plans to see older people, their recent possible exposures, and their current symptoms, and therefore about their possible infectiousness and risk to others. Fast tests should already be providing customers the one piece of information they lack to be able to usually get on with normal life but when needed, take immediate, lifesaving precautionary actions.

Early warning through fast self-testing, enabling immediate self-isolation and immediate use of therapies, should already be helping us all best live through coronavirus and then live with coronavirus.

Businesses Create…

By March 31st, E25Bio had developed a paper-strip test for SARS-CoV-2 antigens that is self-contained, could cost $10, and provides results in 15 minutes. The test could be produced at a rate of 3 million a month at minimum.

By August 26th, Abbott had developed the BinaxNOW™ test for SARS-CoV-2 antigens that is self-contained, costs $5, and provides results in 15 minutes. By October, the test will be produced at a rate of 50 million a month.

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Governments Block…

Even so, not one fast, convenient, inexpensive test for SARS-Cov-2 infection has been approved so far by the FDA.

On August 26th, the FDA issued a single emergency use authorization for Abbott BinaxNOW™. This requires that the test be performed by CDC-qualified labs under a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation. This isn’t convenient, so it is harmful.

On August 27, the HHS and DoD contracted to buy this year’s entire supply of Abbott BinaxNOW™ tests. This will grab the entire supply out of the hands of freely-deciding customers and will put the entire supply under the control of government bureaucrats. It’s dystopian, but this is real life.

This one-two punch stops people from buying the tests, stops Abbott from selling the tests to people, and stops people from using the tests themselves.

In place of people having freedom and sole control of who uses the tests and how many are produced, the government is in sole control. What could go wrong?

People Die.

So far, politicians and bureaucrats have blocked fast tests, have highly discouraged and locally blocked use of the legal existing antiviral combination hydroxychloroquine and zinc, have ordered that infected people be taken in by nursing homes, and have shut down so much beneficial activity: schools, where younger people could have been building immunity; businesses, where younger people could have been building immunity; “non-essential” healthcare, which would have prevented huge numbers of deaths from other causes.

Politicians and bureaucrats have distracted from these destructive actions by rushing out masking orders and distancing orders, orders that only provide the desired political cover if the orders continue for the balance of the political lives of the government people, or until a real solution breaks through.

Government people’s hopes are on vaccines, but a real solution can be readied much sooner and much more reliably. The nearest-term real solution is fast tests sold over the counter.

Modeling strongly indicates that fast, convenient, inexpensive, frequent tests would nearly eliminate outbreaks within a few days.

Illustration depicting red and white triangular warning road sign with a government sleaze concept. Blurred blue background.

Government interventions are stretching out the outbreak, causing huge deprivations of life, liberty, and property.

Notice that the FDA doesn’t control masks, HHS and the DoD don’t buy up all the masks and distribute them, and the CDC doesn’t qualify who can put masks on other people. This is the case, even though masks are not proven safe, while fast tests are fully safe; and even though masks are not proven effective, while fast tests are proven effective (yes, producers’ tests are proof).

So let’s be straight here. Masks backed by (at best) conflicting, weak evidence are pushed on us by government people and sold over the counter. Fast tests backed by strong evidence are blocked by government people from being sold over the counter.

Fast tests can rapidly improve health. Strong government opposition to fast tests is killing our elderly people and our other vulnerable people. This is totally unacceptable.

The FDA, HHS, the DoD, and the CDC exist because of past Congresses and presidents; are ultimately controlled by our current Congress and president; are controlled minute-by-minute by our current president; and can be overruled by our current president any minute of any day.

Mr. President, Mr. and Ms. Congress persons: People are dying right now every day, and we the people would prevent these deaths, if you our government would let us. Make a humane exception here to your governance-as-usual: Actively require your FDA, HHS, DoD, and CDC to back off from controlling fast tests. Back them off today!

Let our people go and take care of ourselves.

James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers. Mr. Anthony is a chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.