With months to go in the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, testing is still critical to control the surging pandemic. Yet with testing capacity still limited in some areas, health authorities have struggled with how to catch the most cases: Test on a first-come, first-served basis, or prioritize testing for those with symptoms? Provide free testing for all?


In a recent working paper, Berkeley Haas Asst. Prof. Luyi Yang found that free testing for all—with no prioritization—can backfire when demand gets too high. Along with co-authors Shiliang Cui and Zhongbin Wang, Yang developed a model to project how testing facilities should schedule and price COVID testing to reduce infection rates.


“Long lines may discourage people from getting tested promptly, which of course can be dangerous from a public health standpoint,” Yang says. “My coauthors and I figured there had to be a way to make testing lines more efficient.”