The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

U.S. Flunks the COVID Test

Sep 27, 2021

Tests are the equivalent of scouts in a war. Tests alert any army fighting COVID to the movements of the enemy virus. To fight the virus, public health experts recommend that test results come back fast. But because of the disorganized way in which capitalists produce products, there continue to be delays caused by shortages of chemicals needed for test processing.

The gold standard in COVID testing is molecular tests that are so sensitive they can detect tiny amounts of the virus, even if the person has no symptoms. Called PCR, short for polymerase chain reaction tests, they can be close to 100% accurate.

Rapid tests, which return results in 15 to 20 minutes, have some issues. It can happen that rapid tests say someone is fine who actually HAS the virus. But these tests are good at catching people who have enough of the virus to be contagious. With this knowledge, infected people can stay home and not infect others.

Rapid testing is being subsidized by the governments in Britain, France and Germany, countries that at least have national healthcare for a foundation. People have tests at home when needed, without having to buy them. Countries that have rapid tests have been able to slow outbreaks, and have lowered the number of deaths, unlike in the U.S. While there are still problems, they are ahead on testing issues.

A U.S. public health expert, who returned from a visit to Germany, explained that the frail elderly there were less isolated. People who want to visit can do a rapid test beforehand. Day care centers there were able to stay open during the whole pandemic because of rapid testing.

The U.S., wealthiest of all nations, cannot provide the organization to produce and distribute rapid and PCR tests because capitalism is run for profit. There is not even a minimally connected health care system—we have the anarchy of a private, for profit system.

So, for example, last spring Abbott Labs cut back production of rapid tests by 50% and permanently laid off 2,000 people in Illinois. This happened during a brief time when the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, said people without symptoms and vaccinated people should not test. This CDC recommendation caused the demand for tests to plummet! Then, just as suddenly, the Delta variant took off! The demand for tests surged. But in this industry, the ramp-up is a slow process.

Both rapid and standard tests should be available to identify, trace and treat the population and to isolate the virus.

But the U.S. process remains in shambles because it is not organized to deliver for human need, but for profit. Profit is killing the majority while a tiny minority of billionaires are getting fat as a tick, profiting off the pandemic.