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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

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House will vote Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

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