The technology already exists to detect most new cases of the novel coronavirus in the US. And it’s not even that expensive. While the country was locked down, scientists developed a number of fast, easy test kits that could flag infections in homes, offices or medical centres. Others have devised wearable devices that can monitor the subtle changes in heartbeat that occur before people show symptoms.

Holding all this back are fears about privacy, inappropriate regulation and a defeatist attitude about testing and contact tracing. Americans seem wedded to the belief that an overwhelming number of cases are caught by passing strangers on the sidewalk or in the supermarket, despite growing evidence they come primarily from close contacts, which can be traced, or crowds, which can be avoided...

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