Larry Brilliant says rapid Covid tests are bad for public health

Second, the longer this virus persists, the more variants we will have. We don’t know exactly what forms a variant, but one factor is certainly immunocompromised people who have the virus in their system for longer – not 17 days like me, but for months. The body cannot completely eliminate the virus. They have created ideal conditions for reorganization and recombination.

Another problem is that we don’t handle numbers very well because we never got tests, right?

What if I told you that antigens, those quick, home tests that we all use now, are bad for our public health? It’s stupid that antigen testing was allowed without reporting positive cases.

How would you enforce that?

Through technology. It is not that difficult to develop the technology for automatic reporting. There is now a class of at-home molecular tests that can already do this. They are almost as good as PCR tests.

Aren’t they more expensive?

The only thing that makes them expensive is the lack of scaling. Right now we can get antigen tests for as little as $5. If you run a billion molecular tests, you can also reduce costs.

When these molecular tests go to the FDA for approval, they say all positive results should be reported. This makes them far better than antigen tests, which are great at the tail end of the disease when trying to determine if you’re still infectious. But they are terrible for the first two days when the rate of false negatives is so high. Between the false negative results and the fact that they are not reported to public health, antigen testing is dangerous to public health.

would you ban them

I would regulate them.

Go to vaccines. The one we have works against the original version of Covid that no one gets anymore. So why didn’t we go for a “warp speed”? specific vaccine aimed at the newer variants?

We kind of did it. Both Pfizer and Moderna are in the process of releasing Omicron-specific vaccines. You seem to be asking why we don’t have a warp speed for BA.5? We call this process Whack-a-Mole.

So the new vaccine will better protect us from getting it?

Hopefully. You have more immunity to Omicron. But BA.5 itself doesn’t necessarily honor previous infection with Omicron. However, the vaccine will do a better job of preventing you from being hospitalized or dying. But we should start talking about BA.2.75. It appears to be the next car on the train. And it’s really fast.

Are we already at the next one?

It has already been discovered in several states. We just get more variants.

There is controversy over whether people due for a booster shot should take it now or wait for that new vaccine to appear in the fall.

I am very careful. I don’t want anyone to get it in the next two or three months before they can get the new vaccine. [Note: White House officials have said that anyone immunocompromised or over the age of 50 should get a second booster if they haven’t done so already.]

Going back to our first conversation in March 2020, it seemed unlikely that two and a half years later we would be speaking and still confronted with a large number.

Why are you surprised? I wrote an article called The Forever Virus.

Will we ever return to Before Times? When we don’t have to watch out and we can eat inside and go to a Broadway show without a mask and feel safe?

Those are two separate questions. Will we ever get to a point where there will be no more Covid? no There will always be Covid.

Will we ever get to a point where we go to a Broadway show without a mask? Yes. We’ve probably had coronaviruses infecting the world in a pandemic-like way before. And then the virus went to the coronavirus retirement home, and we called it a “cold virus.” And they kind of spin. That’s why you can get two or three colds a year. They feel the same to you, but they are different viruses. And that’s because the immunity they give you is only good for about a year or two.

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