Blood testing with the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in 2011. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Gieratz/Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs)

COVID-19 Antibody Tests: A New Way to Divide America?

In the coming months, Americans may find themselves divided into two new classes—the “munies” who have antibodies and immunity from the COVID-19 virus and the “no-vids” who have not contracted the COVID-19 virus and possess no antibodies.

  • The munies will not need to practice physical distancing, can go back to work, meet in groups, and even date.
  • The no-vids must continue to practice physical distancing when around other no-vids, wear masks, and work or study at home when possible.

The biggest social implication of the emergence of two new categories of people is that we may wake up in a couple months living in a hybrid society. For example, munie children and teachers can go back to school but their no-vid friends and colleagues must stay at home. Our teachers have worked hard to develop ways to continue teaching online. In a month or so, they may have to repeat this learning cycle again, developing new methods for teaching a hybrid classroom with half the class on the screen and the other half in their seats. Another concern is that minorities could be disproportionately represented in the no-vid population.

A similar dynamic is likely to play out in the business world. When you attend a meeting, a percentage of participants may still need to be online. What guarantees they have equal opportunity to participate in the discussion and equal influence? Can you allow the no-vids to come to work if they promise to stay in a room or a cubicle by themselves and not circulate?

A silver lining on this cloud is that most nuclear families will not face this problem. Everyone in their small group will probably fall into one or the other category.

This vision of the future is based on the following key assumptions:

  • A test becomes widely available with over 99 percent accuracy that can identify people with antibodies that make them immune from catching the virus.
  • Munies who have the antibodies will exert considerable pressure to open up businesses again so they can start earning a paycheck.
  • Demand for antibody testing will grow exponentially. Some scientists estimate that up to 30 percent of the population who had the virus may not have known they were infected. They could possess the antibodies and not know it. Why continue to stay at home if you can be tested for antibodies and found immune?
  • A vaccine for the COVID-19 virus will not be available until 2021.

Looking Ahead. If this Foresight scenario proves prescient, four dynamics will quickly emerge:

  • Hybrid Models. Policies will soon proliferate at state and local levels on how to conduct our daily business using hybrid models as governments seek to leverage the availability of munies to help them open up the economy.
  • Personal Branding. Society will want to know if you are a munie or a no-vid when you go to the grocery, walk down the street or show up for a meeting. Munies will want or need to wear an arm band, bracelet, or badge to announce their status. No-vids should be easy to identify because they should still be wearing masks.
  • Covid Documentation. The munie/no-vid distinction could begin to dictate how we conduct every aspect of our life: going to school, work, church, shopping, and socializing. Once we have a vaccine, everyone can be a munie but, until then, no-vids may be afraid that other no-vids are misrepresenting themselves and putting other no-vids at risk. If this becomes a serious problem, then someone’s munie status may have to be validated by a doctor or a medical facility. People may even be asked to “show their papers” before entering a building.
  • Accurate testing. Both government and society will demand that antibody testing be as accurate as possible; every false negative could pose a serious health risk. Only FDA-approved tests should be allowed on the market.

On the bright side, let’s hope that celebrations will proliferate for those who attain and can formally document their munie status.

Learn more about key assumptions and strategic Foresight analysis order a copy of the just published 3rdedition of Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis

To explore how these techniques can be used to promote your own well-being, check out How to Get the Right Diagnosis: 16 Tips for Navigating the Medical System

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Randolph H. Pherson is CEO, Globalytica, LLC; President, Pherson Associates, LLC; and a Founding Director of the non-profit Forum Foundation for Analytic Excellence. He teaches advanced analytic techniques and critical thinking skills to analysts in most of the 17 US Intelligence Community agencies, in ten of the Fortune 100 companies, and in many countries around the world including the UK, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Romania, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Hong Kong. Mr. Pherson has authored, co-authored, or edited eleven books. He is best known for two books many analysts encounter in their training: Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis and Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence. Mr. Pherson was a career CIA intelligence analyst and manager, last serving as National Intelligence Officer for Latin America. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal for his service as NIO and the CIA’s Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. He received his AB from Dartmouth College and MA in International Relations from Yale University.

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