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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

12 mins ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and up

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelming voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

35 mins ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 52 mins ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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