US must perform 5M tests daily to end social distancing by June, Harvard researchers say

U.S. labs will need to process 5 million COVID-19 tests a day by June to safely lift social distancing restrictions, according to a new report from Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics in Cambridge, Mass.

Researchers argue that solely using social distancing measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic until a vaccine is available will require the economy to be shut down on and off for up to 18 months. Widespread testing, paired with contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals, could help "prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down," researchers said.

From April 12-19, the U.S. tested an average of about 151,000 people per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. To fully reopen the economy, the nation's testing capacity would need to hit 20 million tests daily by late July, according to the researchers.

"We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health," researchers wrote. "In that considerably less likely eventuality, we will need to scale-up testing much further."

To view the full report, which was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, click here.

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