Why rapid testing failed to protect President Trump from virus

President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md. Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – Throughout the pandemic, the White House has relied on rapid testing to protect the president from the coronavirus.

So what went wrong? The answer can actually help make all of us safer.

There has been talk about the Swiss cheese approach to protection. Basically each precaution is one piece of Swiss cheese.

The holes represent the fact that none of these precautions are perfect. If you layer the precautions on top of each other, you can block most of the holes.

But if you rely on a single layer the virus can easily slip through. Why wasn’t daily testing of those closest to President Trump enough?

The answer is two-fold. First, no test is 100 percent accurate. Rapid tests in particular tend to have a higher rate of “false negatives.” That’s when someone tests negative, but are actually positive.

Rapid tests are cheaper and faster making them more practical for screening people with no symptoms, but there is a real trade-off in terms of accuracy.

There is also a window of time after someone becomes infected when they may still test negative, but have already become infectious.

For those two reasons relying on frequent testing alone leaves holes the virus can slip through.

Let’s take a look at the Rose Garden event now believed to be the source of multiple infections.

It was outside, which is better than inside. But there was no social distancing to put it mildly.

Remember being outside isn’t magic, you still need additional precautions.

If the number of guests had been smaller and people could have spaced out at least six feet apart that would have added a layer of protection.

Having everyone wear a mask would have further reduced the risk by limiting the amount of infectious droplets someone who was unknowingly infected would have breathed out.

There was also a smaller indoor event attended by some of the guests.

So why did some people get sick and others didn’t?

There are a variety of factors at play. Even in families with the exact same exposure, some people become infected and others don’t.

We may learn more about why that’s the case in the future but right now, it’s impossible to predict who will become infected and who won’t making precautions important for everyone.

This story was written by News4Jax’s news partner WDIV Click On Detroit.

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