Mar 6, 2021 - Health

A worrying decline in COVID testing

 Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

Daily COVID-19 tests in the U.S. have declined by more than a quarter since mid-January.

Why it matters: Even with cases and deaths falling dramatically in recent weeks, the pandemic is far from finished, and less demand for testing could put us a step behind the spread.

By the numbers: A little over 1.5 million Americans received a COVID-19 test on March 4, according to data from the soon-to-close COVID-19 Tracking Project.

  • That represents a 26% decline from the peak of 2 million a day, and the average number of daily tests has fallen by more than 33% compared to January.
  • In states like Michigan, testing rates have fallen by half, while disruptions caused by severe winter storms depressed numbers in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Be smart: The rise of vaccinations and a decline in new cases from the post-holiday peak have likely led many Americans to forego testing, but case numbers are still plateauing at more than 60,000 a day, even as some states have begun to end restrictions.

  • That's a dangerous combination that could permit the coronavirus to continue spreading silently, especially in under-vaccinated populations.
  • And it's not helped by continual delays in authorizing the kind of cheap, rapid, at-home tests that could allow for easy and continuous surveillance.

What they're saying: "With the vaccine, we're not really going to be looking for the positive cases as much as verifying constantly that those who were vaccinated or were negative before are still negative," says Tony Lemmo, CEO of the diagnostics equipment company BioDot.

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