The Mechanics of the COVID-19 Testing Supply Chain: Version 2.0

Our ninth COVID white paper is “The Mechanics of the COVID-19 Testing Supply Chain: Version 2.0,” by Danielle Allen, E. Glen Weyl, and Kevin M. Guthrie.


Testing is an essential and fundamental component of any strategy to relieve aggressive social distancing measures, reopen the economy, and begin to return Americans to a more normal life. In the United States we are currently delivering approximately 1 million test results per week. To deliver a safe social opening by June 30, we need to deliver 5 million tests per day with results returned in 12-24 hours. The number of test results delivered will need to increase to 20 million per day by July 30 to fully remobilize the economy. Although such an effort will be expensive – it will cost about $15 billion per month – it represents enormous savings compared to the $350 billion monthly cost of our current collective quarantine. This paper begins to detail how America can boost and innovate its testing supply chain to reach the necessary level of daily testing. We argue that this can be achieved through a combination of scaling up existing approaches, small- and large-scale innovations, and 30 mega-labs established across the country to perform high throughput processing (1-3 million tests per day) with 12-24 hour turnaround. This would achieve the testing scale necessary to support targeted tracing and isolation strategies that will enable Americans to safely re-engage in normal life.