May 22, 2020 - Health

CDC is conflating diagnostic and antibody tests for coronavirus

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday confirmed that it has been combining the results of diagnostic coronavirus tests and coronavirus antibody tests, The Atlantic reports.

Why it matters: Including antibody test results distorts data on the prevalence of the coronavirus and can overstate the ability to safely begin the reopening process.

  • A positive COVID-19 test means a person is currently carrying the coronavirus, while a positive antibody test suggests the individual has been infected in the past.

What they're saying: Harvard professor of global health Ashish Jha told The Atlantic, "Because antibody tests are meant to be used on the general population, not just symptomatic people, they will, in most cases, have a lower percent-positive rate than viral tests."

  • Jha says the CDC's combination of the two tests makes their results "uninterpretable," and that the distortion will "drive down your positive rate in a very dramatic way."

Go deeper

May 28, 2020 - World

The eye of the COVID-19 storm shifts to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic has moved from China to Europe to the United States and now to Latin America.

Why it matters: Up until now, the pandemic has struck hardest in relatively affluent countries. But it's now spreading fastest in countries where it will be even harder to track, treat and contain.

Coronavirus outbreak at Iowa Tyson pork plant sees over 500 cases

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Tyson pork processing plant Iowa is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak with 555 confirmed positive cases among more than 2,500 employees, the state health department confirmed on Thursday to the Des Moines Register.

Why it matters: Outbreaks at meat packing plants have resulted in national shortages thanks to stalled production and the implementation of new, strict safety measures. In mid-April, a Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, became the largest single COVID-19 hotspot, with over 600 cases.

The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A small percentage of people — called superspreaders — may be responsible for a large number of COVID-19 infections, research is starting to indicate.

Why it matters: While there's no method to detect who these people are before they infect others, there are ways to control behaviors that cause superspreading events — a key issue as states start to reopen and debate what types of events are OK.