Over the past month, all but five of the states in the U.S. have been under full or partial stay-at-home orders in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Compliance with these lockdown orders has been credited with reducing the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in many regions. However, the shutdown has also been devastating to the nation’s economy, with 30 million Americans filing for unemployment, and food banks being overwhelmed by increased demand.
Federal, state and local leaders are grappling with two necessary but competing demands: slowing the spread of the coronavirus to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed until a cure or effective treatment is found, and opening up the economy again so that critical supply chains are not interrupted and workers can meet their basic needs. While the way forward is complicated and involves many factors, one key action that can make a significant difference is the adoption of widespread virus and antibody testing, especially when combined with an efficient system of contact tracing.
The Magnitude of the Task
Once someone has begun to show symptoms, they have likely infected others. But if those other people can be found and isolated within their first few days of being infected, the rate at which they can infect others is significantly reduced. In their white paper “Why We Must Test Millions a Day,” Harvard authors Divya Siddarth and E. Glen Weyl estimate the amount of testing needed to contain the spread of the virus based on different scenarios.
- If testing is only performed on some people who show symptoms, new cases can be expected to double every six days.
- The amount of random testing needed to catch all new cases without tracing would amount to nearly a hundred million tests a day.
- Testing combined with a good system of contact tracing can reduce the amount of testing needed to one to ten million tests per day. While this is still several times greater than the current testing capacity, it is a significant improvement over the amount of testing required without tracing.
The authors estimate that the cost of this testing would be $15 billion each month for as long as a year. The amount is staggering, but when compared to the projected $400 billion current monthly cost of the virus, the expense seems more than worthwhile.
Some Roles for the Filling Industry
There are many different ways individuals and industries can help in this time of pandemic. For example, we at Apex Filling Systems are partnering up with Morrison Container Handling Solutions, who are in turn working directly with one of the leading pharmaceutical companies. Together, we are manufacturing 4 filling lines for COVID-19 test kits with a potential for several more, all while following best practices to expedite manufacturing and keep customers and employees safe.
Here are some ways companies can adjust their production to help combat the outbreak:
Diagnostic tests. One of the most urgent needs is for greater diagnostic capacity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of people requesting tests has outpaced the tests available. This results in delays in treatment, which has been deadly for some of those afflicted. Increased testing can also help researchers catch whether a new hotspot is forming. Also, as noted above, diagnostic tests combined with tracing can help decrease the rate of spread of the virus.
Antibody tests. Many people suspect they may have had the coronavirus, but never received a positive diagnosis. With an antibody test, they can know that they have already recovered. While some leaders, including New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, have suggested that these recovered people can return to work, the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned that there is still no firm guarantee that the presence of antibodies makes one immune to a new infection. It does, however, help find potential donors for experimental convalescent plasma treatments, and it also indicates what percentage of a population has already been infected.
Other medications. Once a vaccine or other effective treatment has been developed, there will be a massive race to distribute it as widely as possible. Johnson & Johnson is even beginning to develop its promising vaccine “at risk” in order to have millions of doses ready in the event that their formula is successful.
In-demand cleaning and sanitizing products. Disinfecting cleaners and hand sanitizers are still hard to find on store shelves, and many manufacturers are trying to meet the need in innovative ways.
Let Apex Help You
Apex offers all of our clients customized solutions to their filling needs. Call us at 219-575-7493 or visit our page here to discuss the best equipment choices for you.