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Advocate for more testing

The key to a sustainable economic reopening—one that doesn’t result in a harrowing “roller coaster” of openings and closings of our state for months on end—depends above all on having a robust testing regime.

Governor Wolf should make the tough but necessary call to compel capable private sector businesses to aid the production of coronavirus tests. The Governor should immediately assemble a (virtual) task force of relevant industry leaders to determine which companies could help and in what ways (for example, the capabilities of Philadelphia’s thriving biotech sector ought to be leveraged).

Contact the Governor’s Office and voice your concern about ensuring we have adequate testing before reopening.

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Guest Commentary: Test. Open. Recover.

A soon-to-be Princeton grad and local resident calls on Gov. Wolf to use his powers to make testing more widely available. The state depends on it

A soon-to-be Princeton grad and local resident calls on Gov. Wolf to use his powers to make testing more widely available. The state depends on it

Here in Pennsylvania, as we make real progress in our fight against the coronavirus, we are rightfully turning our attention to re-opening the economy.

Do SomethingUnemployment numbers are reaching previously unimaginable levels and Pennsylvanians are justifiably worried about their livelihoods and futures; some have publicly protested to vent their frustrations.

Governor Wolf has now partially opened up much of the northwest portion of the state—which has had an extremely small amount of confirmed Covid-19 cases to begin with—and the Pittsburgh area is set to follow.

As we lift shutdown orders and transition into phased re-openings throughout the state, we need to confront the hard truth that we need to dramatically increase our testing capacity, and we need to do so quickly.

Efforts to mass produce more coronavirus tests—along with tests to gauge immunity—from the private sector and federal government are moving forward at a snail’s pace.

Thanks in part to testing backlog, there is a troubling scarcity of coronavirus testing in Pennsylvania, which has led some public officials here in the southeastern part of the state to call on Governor Wolf to ramp up testing availability.

In the coming days and weeks, Governor Wolf should heed these calls by taking drastic steps to make widespread, regular coronavirus testing a reality.

With widespread testing, we can isolate those who do have the virus far more effectively. As a result, we can be assured that those out and about are virus-free. We can then feel ready to go back to work, school, and play.

To re-open the economy without a major resurgence of the virus, we will need strong testing capacities. Governor Wolf should make the tough but necessary call to compel capable private sector businesses to aid the production of coronavirus tests.

He should immediately assemble a (virtual) task force of relevant industry leaders to determine which companies could help and in what ways (for example, the capabilities of Philadelphia’s thriving biotech sector ought to be leveraged).

Next, Wolf could lawfully commandeer the necessary functions of the designated companies thanks to Section 7301(f) of Title 35 of the Pennsylvania Code.

To re-open the economy is one thing; to do so sustainably is another. Even countries like Sweden that have taken a more lax, less heavy-handed approach to combatting the virus are experiencing debilitating economic downturns much like ours. Those worrying about the economic pain being wrought by shutdown orders are absolutely right to worry, but it is misguided to think that simply lifting restrictions will do the trick.

Pennsylvanians are not going to fully return to their economic roles Cheat Sheetas buyers and sellers unless they feel reasonably confident that doing so won’t be putting their own health or that of their loved ones at an undue risk. As we confront a reality of living vaccine-free under Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, we need to think critically and objectively about how we can do so sustainably—from the perspective of both economic well-being and public health. In short, we need to lay the groundwork for a workable Covid-19 economy.

The key to a sustainable economic re-opening—one that doesn’t result in a harrowing “roller coaster” of openings and closings of our state for months on end—depends above all on having a robust testing regime. To model the early successes of countries like South Korea in taming the coronavirus, we need mass availability of coronavirus tests. With widespread testing, we can isolate those who do have the virus far more effectively. As a result, we can be assured that those out and about are virus-free. We can then feel ready to go back to work, school, and play.

To save our economy and to save lives, we need to face up to the fact that swift and smart governmental action on the testing front could prove decisive.

Some governors, like Maryland’s Larry Hogan, have already taken extraordinary steps to build their states’ testing capacities. Hogan recently secured 500,000 tests directly from South Korea, a move which drew some confusing blowback from President Trump. Whatever the president’s reactions, Gov. Wolf ought to follow Hogan’s lead in thinking outside the box to work towards making widespread testing in Pennsylvania a reality.

Custom HaloWolf already has begun to commandeer medical supplies, but taking the steps outlined above to build Pennsylvania’s testing capacity surely will provoke far more intense outrage from some corners. After all, the government directing private business in any way should be met with a healthy degree of public skepticism.

But we must approach our new coronavirus reality with clear eyes—the moment demands it. As the federal government drags its feet, Pennsylvania should take bold steps now to boost its testing capacities. Doing so will create the conditions in which the private sector can actually recover in a reasonable amount of time.

To save our economy and to save lives, we need to face up to the fact that swift and smart governmental action on the testing front could prove decisive.

Thomas Koenig is a senior at Princeton University from Oreland, PA, who will be attending Harvard Law School—perhaps virtually—in the fall.

Photo courtesy Katherine Rapin

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We reserve the right to remove offensive commentary.

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