Covid-19: We’re Missing a Big Thing

The following post has nothing to do with corporate compliance or audit, but it’s something that has been on my mind about the Covid-19 crisis for a while. Read it if you want; if not, skip this post and come back Monday for more coverage related to what we do.

Anyway, my issue is this: When will we begin blood testing people to determine whether they’ve already had covid, and are now presumably immune? 

This strikes me as a critical piece of the covid puzzle that we’re all overlooking. If most people only get mild to moderate symptoms, and current testing is only reserved for people with severe symptoms — then lots of us who get covid will never be tested before the virus clears our bodies

So we’ll never know we’re immune, because the nasal swabs only measure whether you have the virus now. 

And therefore, we also wouldn’t know that we could go help with hospital staffing, or deliver goods to shut-ins, do garbage collection for the city, or even just get back to work in the outer world. We have no idea how many immunes are in lockdown right now, needlessly out of the economic sphere. 

This weighs on my mind because these lockdowns, while an important and necessary step to fight covid, can only last so long. With so many people out of the productive workforce, generating no revenue, eventually governments will run out of money to do anything at all. So the sooner we can get people back into productive purposes somehow, the better. 

To know that, we need to know who has already had covid and recovered. And to know who’s already had covid, we need to conduct blood tests that measure the presence of covid antibodies in blood plasma. (Because the virus itself would be long gone from your bloodstream.)

These tests do exist. One team of researchers in New York City has developed a test and is trying to scale it up — although in a Kafkaesque twist that will make you scream, their progress has been slowed by the shutdown ordered there. Other teams are scaling up similar tests in Singapore, China, and elsewhere, apparently.

My point is that if we ultimately defeat covid by developing herd immunity, then we need to start identifying those people in the herd. We are not doing that. And by not identifying the herd, we may be locking down people who could provide invaluable help maintaining society while the rest of us are in isolation.

For example, today I heard NPR interview a Seattle woman who survived covid. She described symptoms that exactly matched a nasty flu my wife and I had in mid-February here in Boston: fever, aches, tiredness, followed by sinus congestion and then a dry hacking cough that lasted more than a week. 

Our flu was highly contagious. It first struck my wife, then me, then our two young children — who did have symptoms, but nothing as bad as we did. Then that flu tore through the school where my wife teaches, and the school where my son goes. At one point in late February, her school had 60 students and 10 staff out in one day. My son had half his class out for two days, then the teacher out. 

I visited an urgent care clinic on Feb. 17 to ask for antibiotics, because by then I had developed an ear infection, too. (I’m prone to infections in one ear whenever I’m sick.) Whatever I had was not the seasonal flu, because the doctor performed a flu test that returned negative. By 10 days later I had felt much better, but then the cold symptoms kicked up again, although not as bad as the first wave — another common sign of covid. On Feb. 25 I even joked to a friend that I had developed another flu, “and maybe it’s corona.” 

Two days later, the notorious Biogen outbreak happened, and covid was racing in Massachusetts. 

To be clear, I am not talking myself into the delusion that I’ve already survived covid, and could be an immune hero (assuming that surviving covid gives you immunity, which isn’t 100 percent confirmed but definitely seems to be the case). I understand that in all likelihood, my family had the seasonal flu. But we’re not sure we didn’t have covid, and we have no way to find out

That is the problem. Because if I did survive covid, I would take a leave of absence from Radical Compliance, rush to the nearest public health department, and volunteer for whatever they need me to do. Even if I don’t fit that profile, clearly by now somebody does, and possibly many people. 

But instead of identifying those first members of the herd, all we’re doing right now is paralyzing the whole population of human capital. We should be analyzing everyone, as quickly as possible, to mobilize every bit of human capital we can muster. 

That won’t happen with nasal swabs that only diagnose people who have covid right now; nevermind that we don’t have enough of those tests anyway, and are imposing testing restrictions so tight as to make the tests useless. They’re not even the most important test we should be running.

We need to start running blood tests to find survivors of covid, now running in the herd of immunity. We need to start doing that RIGHT NOW.

Or am I missing something?

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