Serious problems with testing portend a much earlier rather than later reopening. This seems counterintuitive, but this is the situation now unfolding. There have been numerous reports in recent weeks on the unreliability of testing due to high rates of false negatives. Recent data also show an unexpected and increasing number of problematic “asymptomatic” infections (perhaps a large percentage of all infections in younger people). This is one reason virus infection rates appear to be rising. Another emerging testing issue is the potential for second, and perhaps even third, reactivated infections in persons who were thought to have recovered and who had previously tested negative for the virus. Reactivated infections are now showing up in South Korea, China, India, Japan, and recently in the United States. If unsolved, these testing issues portend very widespread infections. With this virus we always seem to be slightly behind the curve.

Think about the task of solving all those complex and related testing issues as a precondition to “safely” reopening the economy. We may likely go nowhere fast. The reality is that we now have a tsunami of complex and difficult testing questions on the table, and they may not be solvable in our near future, at least to the extent of preventing widespread infections in our communities. It’s possible that our big-tech innovators and biotech researchers might use their talents and data analysis skills to solve these testing problems. Anything is possible, but that seems unlikely in the short term of the next few months. Once these testing issues are widely perceived as not realistically solvable in the near term, there will likely be enormous pressure to reopen the economy.

With very low death rates among younger workers, solving these testing issues as a precondition to fully reopening our economy will probably be seen by many as an unnecessary and unreasonable delay in getting the economy moving again.