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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than half of U.S. counties don’t have a single coronavirus testing site, according to a recent report by Castlight, a health software company.

Why it matters: That leaves a wide swath of the country — particularly rural areas — vulnerable to undetected coronavirus outbreaks, especially as lockdown measures ease. Asking people to travel long distances to get a coronavirus test is both unrealistic and potentially dangerous.

By the numbers: 54% of all counties don’t have a testing site.

  • Among counties with 50,000 or more people, 38% don’t have any testing sites.
  • Among rural counties with fewer than 10,000 residents, 68% don’t have any.
  • And even among counties that do have testing sites, 58% don’t have the capacity to meet minimum recommended testing levels, which Castlight defined as 1% of their population every week.

In Texas, for example, big cities have enough testing capacity to meet Castlight's thresholds, but there's a cluster of 26 counties — and 315,000 residents — in the middle of the state with no testing access.

The big picture: Commitment from retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to open new testing sites could help close some of these gaps.

  • CVS recently announced that it plans to have opened up to 1,000 self-swab testing sites around the country by the end of May.
  • These sites will primarily be located at pharmacies with drive-through capabilities, although in a handful of cases, the company is establishing parking lot test sites.

Some cities, including New Orleans, Nashville and Seattle, have set up mobile testing in order to reach communities without adequate testing access.

The bottom line: There’s no geographic barrier that prevents the coronavirus from spreading to counties without the ability to test for it, especially in states that are reopening while their caseloads are still high.

Go deeper

Iowa closes bars, nightclubs in 6 counties due to coronavirus spikes among young people

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Thursday ordered all bars, nightclubs and breweries to close in six counties across the state after a spike in positive coronavirus cases, specifically among young adults, the Des Moines Register reports.

The state of play: The order will remain in effect until at least Sept. 5, and counties containing major universities were specifically targeted. Restaurants in the affected counties will also be ordered to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m.

Trump admin to buy 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and President Trump on Aug. 27. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to purchase 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories, the White House announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Abbott said Wednesday it plans to make 50 million of the $5 coronavirus tests by the start of October. COVID-19 testing, which is essential to tracking the spread of the virus, declined across the U.S. this month.

Pelosi says stimulus talks will resume when White House agrees to $2.2 trillion

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Aug. 27. Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after a 25-minute phone call with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday that the two sides remain at a "tragic impasse" over a coronavirus relief package.

The state of play: Democrats are willing to agree to a $2.2 trillion stimulus deal — $1.2 trillion less than the HEROES Act that the House passed in May, Pelosi said. She called on the Trump administration to meet them in the middle, and she said talks would not resume unless they do so.