In Kansas, we have good news on the testing front.
Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Andrew Bahl wrote this week that "Kansas is in line for a boost of 870,000 rapid tests from the federal government, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday, as the state continues to aim to increase its testing capacity."
The goal? Using "the influx to augment its new blueprint for ramping up testing, most notably in schools, nursing homes and correctional facilities, which is where the new rapid tests will first be deployed."
This is a vital step. Rapid testing allows for quick screening and detection of virus cases. Hot spots in high-risk areas can be avoided, and we can add an additional layer of protection for front-line workers and others who are doing exemplary work during these tough times.
But testing can’t do it all. For one thing, Kansas has a population of nearly 3 million people. Those aren’t enough tests for even one third of our people, and that’s only testing folks a single time apiece. The other problem is that rapid tests don’t necessarily uncover every case of COVID-19, especially if someone isn’t yet showing symptoms. This was a lesson recently learned by many folks attending events at the White House, including President Trump.
As that outbreak shows us, extra testing capacity does not "solve" the problem of COVID-19. It’s merely one tool among many. Rapid tests must be used alongside wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
None of these interventions are perfect. None work 100% of the time. But when you combine the methods, you strengthen the overall level of protection for yourself and those around you. It just makes sense.
From all indications, Kansas is in for a difficult fall and winter. We are still seeing high numbers of new infections, and people are still being hospitalized and succumbing to the virus. Without universal masking and with a drive to resume as many in-person activities as possible, our state could face even tougher times ahead.
This added testing capacity will allow us to fight back. But it’s only one part of a solution.
We must all dedicate ourselves to simple and easy public health measures that have been shown to slow and stop spread. Beyond individual actions, we must continue to invest in contact tracing and limit opportunities for a large number of people to gather.
Treatments for the virus are improving, and vaccines are being studied. We all know that this virus can be subdued. We must work together to make that a reality.