More than 30 states are still not meeting testing targets needed to control the novel coronavirus, new data reveals.
Researchers found that just 18 states are meeting minimum targets for mitigating COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and just four are doing enough to suppress it.
All have performed enough coronavirus testing per 100,000 residents and are getting less than 10 percent positive results back.
Since early May, daily testing has doubled across the nation from about 250,000 tests per day to more than 500,000.
However, one million tests daily are needed for states to contain the current outbreaks and 4.3 million daily are needed to get the percentage of people testing positive at or below three percent, according to the estimations from Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), obtained exclusively by NPR.
A new Harvard analysis found that just 18 states in the US are meeting testing levels enough to mitigate or suppress the novel coronavirus (above)
However, states including Florida and Texas are testing far fewer people than needed, and both have recently had to roll back reopenings. Pictured: A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a driver to administer a coronavirus test at a testing site in the parking lot of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, June 29
Just four states, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Vermont, are doing enough testing to suppress the virus. Pictured: Critical care nurse Molly Spaeny (right) with St Vincent Healthcare, swabs a patient for a coronavirus test in a drive-thru testing center outside the hospital in Billings, Montana, June 18
For the analysis, researchers first looked at mitigation level testing to reduce the severity of the coronavirus.
This focuses on reducing the spread of the virus through testing symptomatic people, contracting tracing and isolating those who test positive, and measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks.
While mitigation level testing is not enough to prevent community spread, it is on the path to suppression.
Currently, just 18 states meet or exceed mitigation level testing targets: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington DC, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
This means performing enough daily testing to have 10 percent or fewer positive results.
For example, New York needs to be testing 152 per 100,000 people for mitigation and it is currently surpassing that threshold, testing 309 per 100,000.
The states is in different phases of reopening with Long Island in Phase III but New York City still Phase II.
Additionally, its next door neighbor, New Jersey, needs to be testing 83 people per 100,000 residents every day and it is currently testing 220 people every day.
Meanwhile, states like Florida – one of the nation’s new hotspots – is still not testing enough people.
For mitigation, The Sunshine State should be testing 663 per 100,000 people, but only 196 per 100,000 are being tested.
Universal Studios Florida is seen with less patrons than usual in Orlando as new COVID-19 cases surge to record highs throughout Florida and the US, June 27
In Texas, 133 per 100,000 people are being tested, but 404 per 100,000 are needed for mitigation.
Both states have had to roll back reopening as cases and hospitalizations continue to soar to record levels.
On Friday, the governors of Texas and Florida ordered their their bars shut. Texas also closed tubing and rafting business while Florida shuttered some beaches ahead of the Fourth of July.
Next, researchers looked at suppression level testing, which is to quickly find and isolate new cases so that new case levels or close to or near zero.
This requires regularly testing asymptomatic people in high-risk areas such as nursing homes and contract tracing and isolation, as well as measures like social distancing and wearing masks.
Just four states, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Vermont – with West Virginia close behind – have reached the minimum for suppression level testing.
These states’ outbreaks weren’t very large to begin and, with a relatively small population, it doesn’t take as many tests to get to a minimum percentage, but the team says their respective health departments are to be commended.
This also means that the four states are having three percent or fewer tests coming back positive.
‘What we all really want is to suppress the virus, to get the virus level so low that we don’t have large numbers of people getting sick and dying and that we can open up our economy,’ Dr Ashish Jha, director of HGHI, said in a press release.
‘Where people will have confidence going out to restaurants and bars and opening up schools without having large outbreaks and without having to shut down again. That life begins to return to normal.’
To meet the target for suppression level testing, Alaska needs to test 239 per 100,000 people and it’s surpassing that by testing 349 per 100,000.
Hawaii just needs to be testing 23 per 100,000 people, but The Aloha State is currently testing 85 per 100,000.
‘I do think it’s possible’ to bring outbreaks under control, Jha told NPR.
‘It’s not going to be easy. But it requires leadership and it requires a commitment from our country that says: “We actually want to open up our country safely and we want to get our lives back.”‘