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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of coronavirus diagnostic tests being completed every day has plateaued over the last week — at a number that falls far short of what experts say is needed.

Between the lines: Some states are testing more than others, but we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready to safely resume normal life. Otherwise, the virus will easily be able to spread undetected.

  • Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said he thinks we need to be doing 500,000 tests a day for the foreseeable future.

Nationwide testing capacity steadily increased for weeks, but has appeared to hit a wall around 145,000 tests a day. Several factors are holding it back:

  • Supply shortages for key test ingredients, swabs, test kits, and personal protective equipment.
  • Poor coordination: Some labs have excess testing capacity, but aren’t being sent samples from the providers collecting them.
  • Rules about who gets tested: Many states have limited testing to the sickest patients, and caseloads are dropping overall. But clinicians often have discretion as to who they test.
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, U.S. Census Bureau; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Variation among states isn’t only a result of demand. For example, Michigan is a hotspot for cases, but is near the bottom of the pack in testing.

  • States are competing for resources, and some have better existing infrastructure than others.
  • “Every state has come up with its own policy for testing, and most states are relying on a mix of different factors for how to do testing,” Jha said.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

5 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

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