Winkenwerder: Test massively and often

MADISON, Wis.—April 2, 2020—COVID-19 is “an insidious enemy,” and “the single most important thing we should be doing is conducting massive and aggressive testing and re-testing on most of our population,” according to Bill Winkenwerder, MD, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and a current member of the WPS Health Solutions Board of Directors.

Winkenwerder, a nationally known health care strategist elected to the WPS Board in 2016 for his understanding of the health care industry, government contracts, and finance and operations, recently wrote an opinion piece on LinkedIn regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and what America should be doing now to fight it.

“The only way we can get ahead of this virus and anticipate its trajectory is to have a response based on real-time data,” Winkenwerder says. “The U.S. now has the capacity to ramp up for massive testing. With a second wave of virus attack likely in the late fall, we must start this now.”

He proposes that if every American knew his or her COVID-19 status, then those who have it could self-isolate, businesses could open and operate, and the public would be safer. Knowing who has the virus and how it’s spreading in every town would help flatten the curve. Federal and state leaders would be able to make better decisions on policy and needed resources. “Confidence to overcome fear is very important,” Winkenwerder says.

The need for massive testing is in addition to current efforts that protect older, vulnerable, and high-risk groups. Winkenwerder stresses that efforts to develop new therapies and a vaccine should continue as fast as possible. He says testing needs to ramp up from the current rate of more than 100,000 tests per day to tens of millions of tests per day.

Massive testing is not a one-and-done exercise, Winkenwerder says. Testing must continue for the next 12–18 months until a vaccine is available. And health care workers, police, first responders, transportation workers, and food workers should be tested frequently. He says President Trump should expand his use of the Defense Production Act to enable the mass production of testing devices, kits, and associated materials.

We need a big win, Winkenwerder says, and a commitment to putting in place a national plan to identify, isolate, and defeat the coronavirus. “America must act quickly to execute this plan,” he says. “Every day is precious.”

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