Will the US Need to Expand Testing before Lifting Lockdowns?
- April 08, 2020
- CBR - Public Policy
On the second statement, about the need for an increase in testing capacity as part of a clear strategy for an economic restart, there was near unanimity.
In comments, William Nordhaus said, “This is not macro policy, this is good public health policy. Orders of magnitude smaller than stimulus needs.” Bengt Holmstrom noted: “The Asian experience shows this is a viable, hopefully sustainable path. Aiming for herd-immunity always was a much riskier strategy.” And Larry Samuelson warned, “Restarting too early risks a viral resurgence; too late entails extra cost. Careful planning is required to strike the right balance.”
Several experts referred to the need for testing to get people back to work. Chicago Booth’s Austan Goolsbee asked, “Do you want people to get out of their pajamas and back to work? Then we NEED TO DO MORE TESTS.” Richard Schmalensee of MIT stated, “There is clearly a need for testing, not just capacity, as well as a way for low/no risk individuals to credibly identify themselves.” And Aaron Edlin suggested, “Certifying people as recovered would be extremely helpful,” linking to his summary of the idea written with NextBus cofounder Bryce Nesbitt.
Some nuance to the general agreement on this statement came from James Stock, who said, “The only caveat is if we already have a high infection rate (low death rate), then such measures should target the most at risk—for example, the elderly.” Chicago Booth’s Steve Kaplan added, “Would also be very helpful to have treatments that can be administered when symptoms first appear that reduce the odds of becoming critical.”
The one expert who reported being uncertain about the statement, Richard Thaler of Chicago Booth, was not convinced by the suggestion that testing and the other measures are “required”: “Important yes but would I hold up restart if cases are low but tests are still rationed? No.” Christopher Udry agreed with the statement but also pointed out: “‘Required’ may be too strong. A vaccine or treatment could substitute for testing. But most likely, a massive increase in testing needed.”
All comments made by the experts are in the full survey results.
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