US coronavirus testing has dropped dramatically: a 13% decrease in 2 weeks. Public-health experts say the system is broken.

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The weekly average of daily coronavirus tests administered in the US is now 13% lower than it was at the end of July.
Insufficient testing makes it hard to identify new cases in time to contain an outbreak.
High test positivity rates in some states could also be a sign that a decline in cases may be partly the result of diminished testing capacity.

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The US faced yet another coronavirus testing bottleneck this month, as high demand delayed results. In late July and early August, the country’s biggest diagnostic companies, LabCorp and Quest, were taking a full week to return test results.

By the time some people found out they had tested positive, they’d had plenty of time to spread the virus to others.

This led healthcare facilities to get more selective about who they tested. The result: The weekly average of daily tests is now 13% lower now than it was at the end of July, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The US performed around 708,000 daily tests, on average, over the last week, compared to nearly 818,000 at the end of July. Some states have seen even more dramatic declines: Texas’s weekly average of coronavirus tests administered has fallen 45% in the last month. Arizona’s has fallen by 36%, and Florida’s by 27%.

That’s the opposite direction from where we should be going, experts say.

“One of the biggest obstacles to containment has been the fact that we don’t have a testing strategy and people don’t know their status,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider. “When you look at countries that have been able to contain [the virus], they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. They tested, traced, and isolated.”

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In 13 states, more than 10% of tests are coming back positive

LabCorp and Quest both say they’ve now lowered turnaround times to two to three days. And on average, new daily cases in the US have fallen by 18% in the last two weeks.

“The decreased infections we’re seeing are real,” Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant health secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said on a Thursday press call.

But some public-health experts think the drop-off could still be partly the result of diminished testing. One piece of evidence for this is a rising share of positive coronavirus tests in some states. Although the national share of positive tests has stayed relatively flat over the last month, Texas’s percent positivity has doubled over the last two weeks, from around 12% to 24%.

“When you see percent positivity rising, that usually means that not every case is being captured by this system,” Adalja said in June. “All new cases should be something that’s already on the radar of public health officials — and that’s not probably the case where you have percent positivity rising.”

The World Health Organization recommends that governments see a 5% or lower positivity rate for at least 14 days — or lock …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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