Today Donald Trump took to Twitter to add fuel to the ongoing debate on whether or not U.S. States are ready to open. He pointed out that the latest “complaint” against his plan to restart the economy is a lack of coronavirus testing. The U.S., he argues, is doing more testing than anyone— stop complaining.
That’s true. To date, the U.S. has conducted 5,696,928 coronavirus tests. That’s nearly double than second-place Russia. But that’s really where the good news ends. When you look at the number of tests conducted per 1 million inhabitants, the U.S. is painfully low on the list— 43rd, to be exact.
But even that pitiful ranking doesn’t tell a full story of coronavirus testing in the U.S. because counties with exceedingly small populations will find it easier to test a more substantial proportion of their community. So how can we measure whether the amount of testing is ‘enough?’
The WHO and several epidemiologists suggest using the positivity rate, or the number of positive tests compared to the total number of tests. The higher your positivity rate, the less accurate your picture of the outbreak is considered. That’s because a high positivity rate suggests that you’re missing a huge swath of the population that has mild or no symptoms at all.
That can be dangerous because it means many uncounted infected people are out there spreading the disease. It also increases the chances of another un-contained outbreak slipping under the radar.
A ‘good’ positivity rate, according to the WHO, is 10%. With that kind of rate, the organization says you can make an informed decision about reopening.
The U.S. has a positivity rate of 18%. That means one in every five people tested for coronavirus has it. Compared to the rest of the world, it’s shocking that Donald Trump is willing to move forward with reopening plans.
Italy, which has only just begun to scale back its lockdown measures, has a positivity rate of 11%. Germany and South Korea, where testing has always been a priority, have positivity rates of 8% and 2%, respectively.
France and the UK are both in worse shape than the U.S., but neither country has concrete plans to lift lockdown measures. Spain, with its positivity rate of 17%, has only just lifted its restrictions enough to allow children to go outside once per day.
But what about individual states? Are they able to reopen one by one, as Trump suggests? After all, the outbreak is uneven across the country. The answer to that question depends on many factors— but based on testing alone, the answer is yes. Several states can reopen based on their positivity rates, but many of those that have already lifted lockdown measures have troubling data.
Based on these figures, it’s clear that the picture of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is incomplete.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.
This article was edited by Aaron Weaver.