There’s been a great deal written about whether President Biden’s OSHA mandate is legal. But I’ve been doing some math. The data I’ve seen in various places pegs the top-end of U.S. testing at between 500 and 600 per hundred thousand. This yields about two million tests per day. The math works out.
There are somewhere around 70 to 80 million American adults who are not yet vaccinated. Let’s say that 50 million are in the workforce, working for companies with over 100 employees and therefore subject to the OSHA emergency standard. The mandate requires employers with over 100 employees to test all unvaccinated workers every week for COVID-19.
That means 50 million tests per week. If the U.S. ran its testing at the pandemic maximum of 2,000,000 tests per day, every day, that’s 14 million tests per week. It seems to me, in the best case scenario, that we’re going to come up short. We would need to increase our testing capacity by 357 percent to even begin to test everyone every week.
I reached out to an industry association, the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents labs that, among other things, do COVID-19 testing. As you might guess, the ACLA came out in favor of Biden’s testing plan. I asked them if their members had the capacity to test everyone. They haven’t answered my email.
One possible solution is self-testing–the at-home rapid tests. Some data I’ve found indicates a false negative rate around 12% for those tests, if they’re administered properly. That means for each 100 employees tested who are positive, up to 12 could have COVID-19 and spread it around before they see symptoms. I also don’t know how many of these tests are currently circulating, how long their shelf life is, and how many can be produced on a weekly basis.
I have serious questions as to whether the OSHA testing policy is even possible.
That means the $14,000 fine for not testing employees is bogus. The government can’t fine companies for not doing what can’t be done even if they tried. The carrot (get everyone vaccinated) doesn’t work without the stick (fines for not testing).
If all that’s true, then someone at the White House likely knows all this. It means the entire COVID-19 employer mandate was nothing but a canard. It was a story to get everyone’s mind (and the news) off of the debacle in Afghanistan. But I’m cynical.
I’d like to see if my math makes sense to anyone else.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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