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Bring on the at-home rapid COVID tests
Dec 3, 2021
Episode 571

Bring on the at-home rapid COVID tests

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The Biden administration makes a big investment.

The U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to making rapid at-home COVID-19 tests easily available and inexpensive. And we’re going to need to get better at it as omicron variant concerns increase and we see more indoor gatherings. Then we’ll look at the staffing shortages many schools have faced and what that’s meant for those who’ve stayed. And it’s Friday, so we’ll wrap up with a round of everyone’s favorite game, Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

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Make Me Smart December 3, 2021 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams: I’m excited to see what you’re drinking. Hey, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we attempt, try, often do, make today make sense. Kai is out today, but joining me is my good friend and colleague, Marketplace reporter Samantha Fields. Samantha, thanks for being here.

Samantha Fields: Hey, Kimberly, thanks for having me. And to everyone who’s joining us on the live stream or on the podcast, on YouTube, wherever you’re finding us, thank you for joining us for happy hour, or as we like to call it, economics on tap.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, and aside from the news, today is also going to have a game of half full half empty, but first and very importantly, what are you drinking?

Samantha Fields: I’m drinking some red wine. I wanted to have a cocktail. But I’m about to head out to dinner with friends, where I know we’ll have wine and I don’t like to mix.

Kimberly Adams: What kind of wine? 

Samantha Fields: It’s a Portuguese red, a nice way to start Friday. 

Kimberly Adams: Fancy, okay!

Samantha Fields: What are you having? I bet whatever you’re having is fancier than what I’m having.

Kimberly Adams: Well, I’m having box wine. However, it is mulled. So it’s mulled wine. I made it with box wine. Literally the cheapest brandy I could possibly find, some triple sec. And what else is in there? Some nutmeg, some cloves, some cardamom and cinnamon sticks. 

Samantha Fields: I might have to try that later. 

Kimberly Adams: Cheers.

Samantha Fields: Cheers. Happy Friday.

Kimberly Adams: Let’s go ahead and get to the news. You have way more links than I do. So why don’t you go ahead?

Samantha Fields: Well, I’ve been just thinking so much this week about how almost two whole years into this pandemic, we still really don’t have access to at-home rapid tests that you can just find anywhere, get for free, or for super cheap. And I just, I just find that kind of incredible and kind of frustrating. And kind of is an understatement. It’s just incredible to me that all this time later, we still haven’t figured that out when so many other countries have.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I mean, these articles that you have are gonna be in the show notes. But, I mean, what is everybody else doing? And why can’t we seem to get it together?

Samantha Fields: So, you know, one thing that’s super interesting is that in the UK, for example, you can sign up on a government website. And every day, if you want, you can order a box of tests. It will come with seven tests, it arrives pretty much the next day. And you can do that every single day. And they’re free. And so if you’re going out to dinner with friends, you’re going to see your grandparents, or you’re going to see friends, maybe perhaps you have little kids who aren’t vaccinated, you can do a test at home in your living room and 15 minutes later have a result. Now, of course, it’s not quite as accurate as the PCR test. But it’s pretty accurate. And it would go a long way here, in addition to vaccines, of course, and to continuing to mask and do everything else to helping reduce spread. And it’s interesting because Biden actually this week announced that as part of his winter strategy for fighting COVID, he’s going to require insurance companies starting next month to cover the cost of at-home tests. They’re also becoming more available. So starting next month, if you have private insurance, you can buy a test at the store and send in, you know, the receipt and get reimbursed. Obviously, it’s not the same thing that’s going to be a barrier for a lot of people. Not everybody has insurance. For people who don’t have insurance, they’re also going to make tests a lot more available at sites, they say, sort of around the, around the country to make them easier for people to walk in and pick them up. So we’ll see, maybe, maybe we’re on the verge of this becoming finally, two years in, much more available. But it’s incredible to me that it’s taken this long.

Kimberly Adams: I love that your apartment sounds like New York. 

Samantha Fields: Sorry about that, everyone.

Kimberly Adams: No, my phone just went off, which is like, journalism, broadcast journalism 101. So, sorry. You know, I am teaching a class this semester, and it’s in person. And so I’ve had access to at-home testing weekly, in order to teach that class, and it’s been such a relief. You know? Because when I see family members, I’m just like, okay, I know that, I know that I tested this week. And you know, it does feel nice and I hope that more people are going to be able to get access.

Samantha Fields: Me too.

Kimberly Adams: Mel, says she wants to take my class. I have two students.

Samantha Fields: I also want to take your class. Hey, we’ll add it, we’ll make it to four.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. So my article is actually about education also, but about the staffing shortage. The Washington Post has this article about how the staff shortages in schools across the country are so bad that you have principals and teachers pulling double duty as janitors and bus drivers. And like, those are full jobs themselves that, you know, at one point, my dad worked as a janitor and like, these are important jobs as well. And then to have your teachers doing that as well and your principals doing it just because there aren’t enough folks, I, you know, I really struggle to understand how teachers do it because my goodness, making it through the pandemic, figuring out remote learning, and then transitioning back into school, getting yelled at by parents at school board meetings, and trying to get the push and pull of what they are and are not allowed to teach, while still not really making the kind of money that we probably should be paying educators in this country. So I mean, I am just constantly in awe of teachers at like, especially elementary school. 

Samantha Fields: Where they’re having to pull double duty as a bus driver or a janitor. It’s hard enough without having to do any of that.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. So anyway, yeah. So thank you to all the teachers. Good luck, and sorry about this. Hope it gets better soon.

Samantha Fields: Yeah, and I mean, I’ve actually heard–cheers, cheers to that–I’ve actually heard, I have a number of friends and cousins who are teachers, and a lot of them are saying this year is actually the hardest so far because it’s just, you know, it’s, it’s just never ending, you know, and kids at this point have, a lot of kids are really struggling from everything I’m hearing from, from the teachers that I know. And there’s a lot of behavioral issues, there are a lot of kids who are just having a very hard time emotionally, mentally with the pandemic, and sort of that on top of all of the, you know, added responsibilities teachers are facing, the lack of free periods, which I know was also mentioned in that article. Teachers don’t have prep time during the school day a lot of times anymore. And it’s just a lot. Everyone’s really, really burned out. A lot of people, a lot of teachers are thinking of leaving the profession. And look, there’s already this shortage that you’re talking about. What’s going to happen if more people do, you know? It’s really tough.

Kimberly Adams: Well, I was just saying, I don’t know how teachers do it. Christian, Christian Schroeder in the YouTube chat says we didn’t do it. That’s why there’s a shortage. It’s not a teacher shortage. It’s a teacher retention shortage and yes, I, I hope that among the policy priorities we have coming out of the pandemic is all of that celebration of teachers that we had early on, when they were all doing heroes work with remote learning, I think, I hope that carries over into valuing teachers for the drastic work that they do all the time. But in the meantime.

Samantha Fields: At long last, right? 

Kimberly Adams: Cheers to teachers. 

Samantha Fields: Cheers to teachers.

Kimberly Adams: Should we play a game?

Samantha Fields: Let’s play a game.

Kimberly Adams: Let’s play a game. Okay, this is half full, half empty, where we give you our thoughts and feelings and vibes on all sorts of topics, but mainly the ones picked out by Drew Jostad, who is our host today. Drew, go ahead.

Drew Jostad: Okay. I don’t pick the topics. Alright. Are you–just don’t want to take, I don’t want to take credit for the hard working social team here. 

Kimberly Adams: Yes, thank you social team.

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on debt collectors pursuing people on social media?

Samantha Fields: Can I be all the way empty on that?

Kimberly Adams: Yes, absolutely. That is a real thing. I mean.

Samantha Fields: I want to know how that even works. I hadn’t heard about that. But it doesn’t, I mean, it doesn’t surprise me. But it’s, it’s horrifying, quite frankly. So I’m very, very empty on that.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, I’m empty on it happening. But I’m like, I’m empty on it as a thing that should happen. But I’m all the way full on the fact that it is a thing that does happen. And there’s so much data about us on social media and elsewhere that if people are trying to get money, I imagine they’re gonna come after you whatever kind of way they can. And when, you know, you put your business on social media, and it’s like you owe $50 grand and then you post yourself with a new car, I can imagine a debt collector will come at you, but also like, what if you’re just trying to have like, Christmas with your kids or something like, ew. Ew. I don’t like that.

Samantha Fields: It’s just weird. And also making it public in a way that it isn’t otherwise is also a little bit questionable to me.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So what’s the next topic because that’s just grim.

Drew: Next topic isn’t going to be too much better. The Omicron variant and back to work plans. Half full, half empty?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty.

Samantha Fields: I don’t know how to answer that one. Tell me more.

Kimberly Adams: Well, I think a lot of companies still really want people back in the office. And I think they’re going to continue to push people to at least do some days in the office, that, unless they’re going full remote, and some, some are, and some, many employees are saying that they don’t want to ever go back, and people are quitting their jobs for that. Fine. But I think that, you know, as we saw this week, the strategy of responding to this variant is not more lockdowns, it’s more vaccines. And I think that the steady push to get people to go back to the office and back to schools is going to continue because now everybody does have access in the United States, at least, to the vaccines. So yeah, what do you think? 

Samantha Fields: Yeah, I’ll be curious to see, you know, obviously, the Biden’s vaccine mandate is tied up in court now. So I’ll be curious to see if more employers start, you know, mandating that if they are requiring people to come back to the office or not, or again, maybe this is also a place to add in those rapid add home tests, you know, have them available in the workplace if you’re requiring people to go back to work. Seems especially with a new variant that, you know, we don’t know much about yet, like, we should have as many safety measures in place as possible if, if employers are going to be doing that. So I’m also, I’m with you on this, I’m half empty.

Kimberly Adams: And I should mention, Ben points out in the Discord that, you know, it’s easy to talk about people going back to the office, a lot of people never left the office, many people remained out and working in public through the whole pandemic and never had that option. So yeah. And yogabyebaby in the YouTube chat, says my employer multinational giant conglomerate is requiring coming into the office, is requiring vaccines for coming in the office, but otherwise not. So yeah. 

Samantha Fields: Yeah, it’s tricky.

Kimberly Adams: They’re trying to figure out an emoji for this variant in the Discord.

Samantha Fields: Oh, I can’t wait to see what they come up with. 

Drew Jostad: In the meantime, are you half full or half empty on the Major League Baseball lockout?

Kimberly Adams: I learned so much from Andy about this this morning.

Samantha Fields: That is where I learned everything that I know about it.

Kimberly Adams: Everything I know about this I learned from Andy Uhler this morning. Oh, boy. So based on what I heard Andy Uhler say on the radio this morning with the wonderful person he interviewed about this story, I am going to say half full. I mean, like it’s happening. It’s happening. But like, I can never figure out half full or half empty, like it is happening!

Samantha Fields: I was just gonna say, how are you interpreting half full, half empty? Maybe I’m doing this game wrong.

Kimberly Adams: But you know what, I’m gonna say half empty, because, you know, it’s baseball. Everybody wants baseball. Let’s, let’s fix this. And they, you know, given, I always worry about athletes in general because your ability to make a living is so tied up in your physicality. And that is better when you’re young. And so these younger players want to make their money earlier. And I get it because what if you do the best you possibly can and then you get an injury that’s not your fault. And so you’ve been making nothing and then you can, you just sort of lose your career. And I do think there, that should be a little bit more balanced. But yeah, that’s what I got. I’m stretching myself here on a sports thing.

Samantha Fields: I’m half empty too, although I will say at least, at least silver lining, it is December. It’s not baseball season. So I’m hopeful that maybe they’ll be able to work things out before baseball season starts.

Kimberly Adams: But that was the point, wasn’t it? This, I also learned this from Andy, that they were waiting. The owners wanted to do the lockout in the offseason so that it wouldn’t affect their ability to make money during the season. So this is all a plan.

Samantha Fields: Alright. Yeah, I’m half empty on this one.

Kimberly Adams: Okay. Drew, where are you on that?

Drew Jostad: Oh, on the major league? I didn’t even know there was a lockout.

Kimberly Adams: We’re like, the worst sports people on the air right now. Okay, let’s just cover our heads in shame. I am really from St. Louis, I swear. I know, I’ve put shame to St. Louis.

Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on the $1,900 mini ATV from Tesla for kids?

Samantha Fields: Really? That’s what I have to say about that. $1,900 on a mini ATV for kids? I’m half empty on this one too. I’m hoping that we get one where I’m half full. Because we got to end Friday on an upnote. 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I wanted a power wheels so bad when I was a kid.

Samantha Fields: Me too. And did you get one?

Kimberly Adams: And we couldn’t afford one. No, we couldn’t afford it. So like this, this just seems like it’s gonna be this generation’s Power Wheels. And however, in listening to Molly’s podcast and other times having heard her talk about the way that we rev up, rev up different technologies that are going to help us out in fighting the climate crisis. You know, all of this is, as somebody said, give them a big wheel, John, John Lankford, I had a big wheel, I did have a big wheel. And if you don’t know what a big wheel is, I don’t want to hear about it at all because that just is gonna make me feel old. But, you know, maybe this is yet another one of those steps that’s going to make the technology cheaper and more easily accessible so that we can actually do the work that needs to happen to electrify our economy and switch to renewable energies and hopefully save the planet, so.

Samantha Fields: Look at you being all positive and optimistic on a Friday. 

Kimberly Adams: You know, I’m gonna go half full on this because it’s a toy and some rich kids are going to enjoy this toy and then maybe that will drive down the price so that other kids can enjoy it. And then it will be a thing that all kids can enjoy. So yeah, let’s, let’s just say have full on that.

Samantha Fields: Cheers to that.

Kimberly Adams: Everyone’s like, no, kids do not need a $1,900 toy.

Samantha Fields: I’m with them. 

Kimberly Adams: Karl said in the Discord, it’s okay to say it’s a bad idea. I was trying to be positive y’all, come on.

Samantha Fields: I love that about you.

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on your Spotify wrapped?

Samantha Fields: I love the look on Kimberly’s face if you’re listening on the pod. 

Kimberly Adams: I don’t have a Spotify account. 

Samantha Fields: Really? At all, not even an unpaid one? 

Kimberly Adams: No, I don’t.

Samantha Fields: Wow, okay. Yeah, I don’t use it very much. So mine was completely irrelevant and not at all representative of how I listened, so I guess, I don’t know, maybe that’s good. They’re tracking me but they don’t really know what I like so maybe I’m half full on that.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, and I’m a little bit, I’m a little bit worried of what it would actually show, you know, cause my listening is all over the place. I doubt–they’d it probably send me a rundown of just like, you’re weird, just you’re weird.

Samantha Fields: That’s what a lot of them are, though. That’s a lot of the Spotify wraps are, you’re weird. What about you, Drew?

Drew Jostad: I also don’t use Spotify. So we got the wrong crowd for this question.

Samantha Fields: Seriously. We’re the only three people.

Kimberly Adams: Wrong crowd for this and baseball, okay.

Samantha Fields: Doing well today. 

Kimberly Adams: Is that it? Yes. Okay. Oh, my goodness. Alrighty, then. Well, I have been very entertained. Looking at other people’s Spotify wrapped posts on Twitter and Instagram. And it’s nice when a lot of these people are like, hey, look, on my Spotify wrapped there’s Marketplace. And that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, which is a nice little segue into the fact that we are in fundraising season. And so I know you get a lot of people asking you for money this time of year. But if you do love Make Me Smart and segments when we actually know the answers like half full and half empty, I hope you will consider us in this season of giving. How much you give, obviously up to you, and we’ll be grateful for anything that you can share and that’s in your budget. And no matter how much you donate, you can get a fun thank you gift in return. We’ve got, I’m looking at the list, the liquid assets mug, it’s a single or a set of two. The Marketplace has me covered facemask or a new umbrella. I should point out that this week was the last week for one of our amazing people in fundraising, Stephanie Patterson, who early in the pandemic I suggested that we maybe should do masks and it was like, week two of lockdown and she was like, too soon Kimberly, too soon. But now we have them!

Samantha Fields: It’s year two and we have the, those masks if you want one.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, now we have the masks and banana pants, of course, the wonderful Molly Wood’s banana pants, either alone, or as part of the Work From Home Essentials Pack with a mug and a notebook. There are photos and full descriptions at Marketplace.org/GIVE SMART. And since you all, I mean, Make Me Smart has the best listeners just in general. Thank you for your support. Thanks to everybody in the Discord and the YouTube chat. Y’all are awesome. So that is my spiel. Thank you for listening. That is it for us today. So Kai and Marielle Segarra are going to be back on Monday and then I will be back on Tuesday for Tuesday’s Deep Dive. In the meantime, please send us your questions, comments. make me smart, make me smart suggestions and make me smile suggestions. You can call us at 508-827-6278. That’s also 508-UB-SMART, because you all be smart.

Samantha Fields: Or you can send us an email, we are at makemesmart@marketplace.org

Kimberly Adams: Yes, yes. All good stuff. Oh, okay. That was a lot of reading. Today’s episode Make Me Smart was produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Greene. It was engineered by Drew Jostad, who doesn’t like Spotify or baseball. The senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

Samantha Fields: The team behind the YouTube live stream today and our game half full, half empty is Mel Rosenberg and Emily McCune. The theme music for half full, half empty was written by Drew Jostad, and the director of on demand is Donna Tam.

Kimberly Adams: Thanks for joining, Sam.

Samantha Fields: Thanks for having me, guys.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer