On October 22, a group of COVID-19 testing experts joined a Zoom call with officials from the Biden administration and presented a strategy for overhauling America’s approach to testing.

 

The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”

 

The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious. Though less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory tests, which can detect the virus’s genetic material at any stage of infection, antigen tests provide a quick snapshot in time for those seeking assurance that they are safe to travel or won’t accidentally infect vulnerable relatives.

 

The plan, in effect, was a blueprint for how to avoid what is happening at this very moment—endless lines of desperate Americans clamoring for tests in order to safeguard holiday gatherings, just as COVID-19 is exploding again. Yesterday, President Biden told David Muir of ABC News, “I wish I had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago.” But the proposal shared at the meeting in October, disclosed here for the first time, included a “Bold Plan for Impact” and a provision for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

 

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