The nation needs to strategically test millions of Americans every day this spring to get the pandemic under control and keep communities and economies open. Thanks to the arrival of millions of rapid point-of-care tests and other new types of tests, cities and states can finally act on this urgent need. They can expand the scope of who they are testing and screen more broadly for the virus among people who work in critical settings, such as first responders, restaurant workers and teachers and their students.
To effectively screen for the virus, however, we need to ensure that Americans know why, when and where they should get tested, and we need to generate broad interest and participation in testing. The COVID-19 Testing Toolkit allows public health departments and community organizations around the nation to do so by engaging communities in conversations about testing in new and creative ways.
To date, communications approaches have focused largely on encouraging testing of people who feel sick. There is a significant gap in public understanding of how healthy people can spread the virus, and in which situations to seek a test. In addition, testing delays and shortfalls have resulted in misconceptions about the availability of tests. Misinformation about testing has created a lack of public trust in testing as a crucial measure to suppress the virus and reduce death and suffering.
At the same time, public officials supporting response efforts in health departments and other institutions across the nation are inundated with competing priorities, and often don’t have access to sufficient technical and human resources to communicate to the public about testing quickly and creatively.
The COVID-19 Testing Toolkit fills this gap. It empowers city and state staff and their partners to run effective, engaging and evidence-based communications campaigns that inform diverse communities about testing.
The Toolkit is a one-stop-shop online resource that offers guidance on campaigning best practices, easy-to-use practical tools, and a large library of ‘plug and play’ testing communication materials such as social media cards, animations, newsletters, email templates and handouts, which have been translated into many languages.
Users can pull materials and post them right away, or customize designs to meet local needs. They can learn about how to best reach their audience, or how to use surveys to better understand local attitudes towards testing before picking a campaign goal.
It is time to take the nation forward, to get past the fear of painful swabs or worries about long lines at testing sites, and make testing widely accessible and something people want to do — for their own health, for the health of friends and family, because they want to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 or to keep the economy open.
Let’s work together and use these tools to leverage the latest information on testing and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Let’s encourage more people who do not have symptoms to get tested.