A joint report produced by the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has warned that even a staggered reopening of the economy could lead to a surge in new COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The report, which was obtained by The Washington Post, writes that even a cautious reopening "will entail a significant risk of resurgence of the virus" even after the country has spent the last several weeks locked down in an effort to flatten the curve of infections.
The only way to minimize the risks, the CDC argues, is to build an elaborate system to test and trace Americans on a massive scale.
"The draft envisions hiring 670 people to help state and local health departments quickly scale up contact tracing," the Post reports. "Tracking down people an infected patient interacted with, so that they can self-quarantine and thus not further transmit the disease, is a deeply labor-intensive process. Considering the large number of continuing infections expected, 670 people is a relatively small number."
The problem, however, is that the United States isn't close to having the testing capacity to pull off such an operation. In fact, Politico reported this week that "the number of coronavirus tests analyzed each day by commercial labs in the U.S. plummeted by more than 30 percent over the past week, even though new infections are still surging in many states and officials are desperately trying to ramp up testing so the country can reopen."