A nationwide COVID-19 screening program that includes quick verification of positive test results would provide economic benefits far beyond its considerable costs, according to new research out of UCLA and Harvard. A two-test protocol could spur economic recovery by greatly reducing the number of people and businesses sidelined by COVID-19–related fears and unnecessary quarantines, as well as lowering actual sickness and death rates.
The study analyzes three hypothetical protocols for federally funded screening programs that test large swaths of the mostly asymptomatic population every 4, 7, 14 or 30 days. Any one of the scenarios would induce GDP growth that generates more than enough additional tax revenue to pay for the testing costs, according to findings detailed in a working paper by UCLA’s Andrew Atkeson and Harvard’s Michael C. Droste, Michael Mina and James H. Stock.
The idea is to pair a cheaper rapid test with a more expensive, more accurate test to shorten quarantines, keep schools open and ease fears.
As the study points out, while there’s good news on the vaccination front, but we still don’t have one approved or in mass production.