Opinion: Hesitancy Distributing Tests Is Not Ideal During A Pandemic

Three KN95 masks are stacked on top of each other on the left, and three cloth masks overlap on the right. If symptoms are present and testing is unavailable, then it is recommended to wear a mask when going out in public (Photo by Juan Rodriguez).

After two years of a pandemic, it’d make sense for the people in charge of the federal government to be taking this seriously. It’d be expected of the federal government to shift most of its resources to making the necessary KN95 and N95 masks available to all of its citizens. It would also be justifiable to expect more than four at-home test kits per household. 

After all, the more informed the general public is about whether or not they’ve contracted one of the many COVID variants, the easier it is to avoid transmitting the disease to others, especially those who are immunocompromised.

When asked in December about why the Biden administration wasn’t distributing tests to every citizen for free, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded with a seemingly sarcastic response: “Should we send one to every American?”

Press Secretary Psaki eventually backtracked on this statement, admitting regret for the dismissive response. Soon enough, word got out that at-home testing would be made available to the public. On Jan. 14, the White House announced that the means by which to order the tests would be made available on Jan. 19. These tests will be free, arriving seven to 12 days after being ordered through the United States Post Service. 

While a good step forward in combating the pandemic, this is coming too late. These tests are likely to arrive by the time this spike in cases has died down, and as such testing won’t be as urgently needed as compared to before the spike. Instead, the attention needs to be on the fact that each household can only receive four testing kits, regardless of the number of occupants. 

A household of one doesn’t have the same kind of stressors as a household of five. In the case of the former, that individual gets four COVID tests all to themselves, to make use of however they’d like. In the case of the latter, one family member has to go without a government-provided test.

Some argue that this issue of inequity has a simple solution: testing centers are something that the current administration is working on making more widespread and available. This is the solution to that family member who couldn’t get tested for COVID.

The problem in this reasoning becomes apparent when considering the current cost of gas, for instance. If the nearest center with appointments and tests available is a half-hour away and there’s only enough money to afford a 10 minutes commute, it becomes inaccessible. 

If the only appointments available nearby are being held at an inconvenient time, such as during the work day, then a person must choose between earning income and getting tested

An individual could be asymptomatic and could have come into contact with someone whose immune system can’t handle the stress that COVID inflicts on the body. 

If the infected individual goes out to see their immunocompromised relatives, not knowing that they have the virus in their system, then that person is playing with the lives of every person that is present. Knowing that one has caught the virus is the first step in stopping the spread of this pandemic. If all had gone well, the virus would have been confined to the homes of those originally infected and would have eventually run its course with no new hosts to latch onto. Instead,  we are two years into this pandemic– two years we will never get back. 

It’s hard not to be angry. But I think it’s better to think about where to aim that anger. Right now, it should be aimed at the people in power. So much could have been done to save so many lives and so much of our precious time. What little we got from the government felt like it came from a place of frustration, as if they were astounded that we had the audacity to ask for more help when we were losing our jobs and racking up hospital bills.

Joe Biden has been in office for a whole year now. It took him all that time to finally start sending at-home test kits, something he could have done much sooner. Every life lost due to inaction is too many. Something like the pandemic could easily be considered a national emergency. Biden could have done much, such as declaring COVID tests to be a public health tool via executive order to ensure that they were made widely accessible the moment he entered office. Instead, we were forced into an uncertain period of our lives without much help from those in power. 

It’s a fool’s game to try and predict the future; there are far too many variables to account for. All I can do is hope that this comes to an end soon. Maybe it’ll be in the form of the virus not having any new hosts to infect and thus propagate through. Maybe it’ll be that we all come together and realize that the lives of our fellow humans are as sacred a thing as our own. Regardless, I know I’m not the only one tired of this. All we can do is hope for the best. If we lose sight of the light and decide to venture into the abyss, there may be no return.

About Juan G. Rodriguez 43 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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