John Cochran–“The Grumpy Economist”–has been arguing for a long time that “cheap, fast, tests can stop this pandemic quickly, even if they are not very accurate.” In a recent blog post, he happily reports that the FDA has approved Abbott Labs’ new rapid test system:

Abbott gets it — the point of this test is not to diagnose sick people, it is to keep most sick people from spreading the disease.  If every American got this test once a week for a month ($5 x $350 million = $7 billion = one drop in bucket of the fiscal and economic cost of this pandemic) it would be over in a month.

Far from being happy, however, Cochran is downright grumpy about the fact that FDA is only allowing the test to be used “by health care professionals [in] point-of-care settings that are qualified to have the test performed and are operating under a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation.” He says:

What is wrong with these people? (FDA) If most of us call our health care providers, you get  non-urgent appointment in about 3 weeks, insurance gets billed about $400, we pay $150, to get the necessary referral, and prescription (!) and on for more delays and costs to get the test.

What possible reason is there for all these restrictions? How can anybody be hurt by taking this test, and how will all these layers of bureaucracy help that anyway? Yes, a huge employer like Stanford can probably obtain a CLIA CoW, CoC, etc. and hire a “occupational health specialist” to administer tests, but how is a restaurant going to do it?

There is a pandemic on, folks. Regulators gotta regulate, I guess, to justify their existence. But not now.