‘Next wave’ of coronavirus tests should reveal scope of the pandemic

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Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

Health departments, hospitals and companies around the world are rolling out the next wave in coronavirus tests, which look in a person’s blood for signs of past infection, in hopes of better gauging how widespread the pandemic is and who might be counted among the recovered.

The new tests promise to give public-health and hospital officials a better idea of how widely the new coronavirus has spread and who can safely treat patients and stop social distancing. But uncertainty about the accuracy of some of the tests and unknowns surrounding immunity to Covid-19—the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus—could limit their usefulness, at least early on.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration granted the first emergency authorization for one of the blood tests [recently], and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has started using its own test. The U.S. could have a “rather large number of tests” available within a week, provided extra checks show them to be accurate, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

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The information could reveal how many people have been infected already and how many would potentially be susceptible to future infection, data that public-health authorities could use to better understand and respond to the pandemic.

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