University of Minnesota’s infectious disease center urges better use of COVID-19 testing

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In the rush to deploy as many COVID-19 tests as possible, important nuances are being lost about which kinds of tests are not worth doing, causing waste and potential harm during a pandemic.

Business managers should not be pinning hopes for reopening on antibody testing of their entire workforces, and hospitals should not be doing universal testing of asymptomatic patients, according to a new report from a University of Minnesota policy center. Both would be a waste of testing capacity that could give patients bad info, unless there’s a specific reason for the testing, like a local outbreak.

And right now, no one should use antibody testing to issue “immunity passports,” because the tests can deliver inaccurate results and no one yet knows how protective antibodies are.

“We’re so focused on numbers of people being tested, and we are not focusing on what the accomplishment of that testing is all about,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which published the 13-page report this week.

The center hopes to raise awareness about the lack of a cohesive national strategy for diagnosing the pandemic. The report includes a number …

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