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Paul Romer, the former chief economist of the World Bank and a Nobel laureate, released a plan Thursday advocating the government spend $100 billion dollars annually to test every person biweekly for the coronavirus in an effort to reopen the economy.
“Until a vaccine is developed and deployed, the simplest and safest path to this outcome is a national testing strategy that marshals our existing resources to test everyone in the U.S. once every two weeks and isolates all those who test positive,” Romer’s plan reads.
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Romer’s plan proposes having university and national laboratories conduct testing of everyone in the United States, which has a population of just over 328 million, according to 2019 U.S. Census figures.
For the “test and isolate” strategy to work, around 25 million tests would need to be administered daily. Currently, only 150,000 people are being tested per day, Romer said. Each test would cost $10 for the labs, according to the former World Bank economist.
“Mass testing is, without a doubt, the best option right now with the resources we have and the challenges we are facing,” he said. “The sooner we focus our efforts towards the necessary steps to making testing ubiquitous, the sooner we can reopen the economy and restore people’s confidence in the future.”
Testing would start with essential workers, such as health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees and transportation personnel, before expanding to others. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 would be put into isolation.
To restore the confidence required to reopen a fractured economy, the infection rate would need to stay below 5 percent, according to the plan. The increased testing would be in place until a vaccine is created and made available globally.
Several states have slowly begun lifting restrictions to boost economic activity.
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Georgia will allow certain businesses to reopen Friday. California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted a ban on certain surgeries this week but said the lockdown measures will continue until more tests become available.