May 20, 2020 - Health

Many Americans live in places with no coronavirus test sites

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

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The European Union is considering an $826 billion coronavirus rescue package to fund recovery efforts for all member states, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

By the numbers: More than 5.6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.3 million have recovered from the virus. Over 355,500 people have died globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 15.1 million tests).

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.