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.
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.