Design of COVID-19 Testing Queues

34 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020

See all articles by Shiliang Cui

Shiliang Cui

Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business

Zhongbin Wang

Nankai University - Business School

Luyi Yang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: October 1, 2020

Abstract

In the event of a virus outbreak such as COVID-19, testing is key. However, long waiting lines at testing facilities often discourage individuals from getting tested. This paper studies how testing facilities should set scheduling and pricing policies to incentivize individuals to test, with the goal to identify the most cases of infection. Our findings are as follows. First, under the FIFO discipline, the common practice of making testing free attracts the most testees, but may not catch the most cases. Charging a testing fee may surprisingly improve case detection. Second, even though people who show symptoms are more likely to carry the virus, prioritizing these individuals over asymptomatic ones (another common practice) may let more cases go undetected than FIFO testing does. Third, we characterize the optimal scheduling and pricing policy. To maximize case detection, there is no need to charge a testing fee; instead, it is optimal to give (partial) priority to asymptomatic testees when testing demand is moderately low, but (partially) prioritize individuals with symptoms when testing demand becomes high.

Keywords: COVID-19, testing, queues, symptoms, hit rate, service discipline, priority

Suggested Citation

Cui, Shiliang and Wang, Zhongbin and Yang, Luyi, Design of COVID-19 Testing Queues (October 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3722022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3722022

Shiliang Cui (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Zhongbin Wang

Nankai University - Business School ( email )

Baidi Road
Tianjin, 300071
China

Luyi Yang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
275
Abstract Views
757
rank
128,091
PlumX Metrics