Where Are the Tests? – The New York Times

Your daughter wakes up with a scratchy throat, and you can’t decide whether she should go to school.

You can’t shake a runny nose and start wondering whether it’s really because of allergies.

You’re planning a family gathering, but you are nervous about your aging parents being there.

Millions of Americans are grappling with situations like these, and there is a straightforward solution to all of them. But that solution is not widely available in the United States, even though the technology exists and is being used in much of Western Europe.

The solution is rapid testing.

Rapid testing — more formally known as antigen testing — allows people to learn within minutes whether they are carrying enough of the Covid-19 virus to be contagious. With this knowledge, infectious people can stay home and quarantine before they infect others. Everybody else can carry on with life.

‘Incomprehensible’
In Britain, France and Germany, rapid testing is widely available and inexpensive, thanks to government subsidies. People can visit testing sites, like tents outside pharmacies in France or abandoned nightclubs in Germany, and get tested at no charge. Many people also keep tests in their homes and self-administer them. “It’s been a way to put people’s minds at ease,” Melissa Eddy, a Times correspondent in Berlin, told my colleague Claire Moses.

In the U.S., by contrast, people usually take a different kind of test — known as a P.C.R. test — which must be processed by a laboratory and sometimes does not return results for more than 24 hours. During that time, a person with Covid can spread it to others.

The shortage of testing in the U.S. may be contributing to the virus’s spread. Recent outbreaks have been worse here than in Europe, even though Europe’s vaccination rate is only modestly higher.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/21/briefing/rapid-testing-covid-us.html