Recently Citigroup began providing at-home Covid-19 testing kits to many of its workers in Chicago and New York, and plans to expand this to all 6000 U.S. branches. Each kit includes a nasal swab, a paper strip and a liquid solution, and people get a result within minutes. “It looks a little like a pregnancy test,” Dr. Lori Zimmerman, Citigroup’s medical director, told me. They have distributed enough tests for each employee to test three times weekly.
Ideally, their employees will be able to determine if they have COVID before they infect co-workers and customers.
Many medical experts believe these types of tests should be available across the country. The thought is that although more Americans are receiving vaccine shots, the country remains months away from vaccination becoming the norm.
Self-testing several times a week may allow life to gain some normalcy avoiding new surges. Unfortunately, testing in the U.S. has decreased 35% since mid-January. This decrease can result in an increase in COVID in African Americans because of the inherent increased risk in contracting COVID in this part of the population.
“We have to do more,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told me. “This pandemic is not over. We still have dangerously high levels.”
Testing may have declined in part because the healthcare system has had to focus on giving vaccine shots. However, if the U.S. can accelerate and administer both vaccinations and testing, lives could be saved and schools and businesses could reopen.
“It pays for itself,” Dr. Michael Mina, a Harvard University epidemiologist who has argued for more testing, said. “Tests are one of the easiest, least burdensome things we could do.”
Worldwide, several countries, including Australia and South Korea, have already used mass testing to help suppress Covid cases, as Vox’s Umair Irfan notes. Many colleges in the U.S., as well as pro sports leagues, have relied on testing to remain operable. And Biden administration officials say they are committed to making tests more available, including for people who show no symptoms.