As of July 2, 2021, there have been 196,553,009 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), including 4,200,412 deaths, globally. Unfortunately, infectious diseases have been an “unavoidable fact of life” throughout history. While the global community looks forward to a gradual return to normalcy from COVID-19 with an increasing number of individuals getting vaccinated on a daily basis, the COVID-19 public health crisis has exposed significant inadequacies in many countries’ pandemic responses—the United States included. Governing authorities must actively consider more effective solutions to quickly detect and prevent the spread of future pandemics.
One proposed model that offers promising potential, but is not yet developed in greater detail, is a future pandemic detection and monitoring architecture. This Comment will refer to this architecture as the “test-and-isolate model.” In his May 2020 Scientific American article, biochemist Dr. David J. Ecker recommends strategically placing modern high-speed metagenomic sequencing technology in urban hospitals across the United States to flag previously-unknown pathogens before the infectious agents have the opportunity to spread widely and pose threats of a new pandemic. Under this model, during a time period without any apparent pandemics (peacetime), the 200 biggest metropolitan hospitals in the U.S. would automatically run diagnostic tests upfront for novel causative agents for patients who visit the emergency room with severe respiratory symptoms that are possibly infectious. If such a system detects a sufficiently serious pathogen, public health agencies would send out diagnostic tests to all residents in the affected geographical area(s) within weeks and isolate those who test positive. This system could be integrated with contact tracing and more standard outbreak response.
April X. Xu,
Catch and Contain Novel Pathogens Early!—Assessing U.S. Medical Isolation Laws as Applied to a Future Pandemic Detection and Prevention Model,
U. Mich. J. L. Reform Caveat
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjlr_caveat/vol55/iss1/2