@Peter Green/LaPresse

My epic, infuriating quest for a covid test

The underlying problem: We’ve expected the market to resolve a public health crisis, but that’s not the market’s priority. Markets respond when they see actual demand, backed by appealing dollars. Public health, like homeland security, needs to be projecting future threats and working proactively. Serious virus variants were predictable.

Four days after a significant exposure to covid-19 this month, I developed a mild cough and a runny nose and just felt crummy. I’m double vaccinated and boosted but worried that I had a breakthrough infection. I isolated in the bedroom, needing a reliable test with quick results, Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the Washington Post.

I didn’t want to infect my husband. If positive, I should inform the people I’d seen in the days before (I had warned them about a possible exposure) and would cancel upcoming holiday plans to visit friends and family. Also, I wanted to quickly find out whether I was infected because I take an immunosuppressive drug, making me more vulnerable to the coronavirus. I could potentially benefit from monoclonal antibodies, which are most effective if given early in an infection.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, finding out whether I had covid should have been easy. Quick-turnaround PCR tests — which take a couple of hours to run — now exist. Websites list dozens of places doing them, and they’re generally covered at no expense to symptomatic patients.

But my search turned into an infuriating, five-day scavenger hunt.

Across the country, test lines are hours long and results so delayed they are often of limited use. Blame is cast widely: The Food and Drug Administration has been slow to approve at-home tests, which are useful in some situations. The Biden administration recently bought half a billion for free distribution but, with manufacturing time, those won’t be available until January — too little too late with omicron surging.

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