According to an analysis by Axios, based on data from the COVID Tracking Project, the number of tests performed nationally across all US states is currently 17% lower than it was at the end of last month.
At the end of July, the US was conducting around 800,000 tests a day. However, the latest data from August 12 shows that around 479,000 tests were performed that day.
Despite the decrease in testing, the hardest-hit states still have high proportions of tests coming back positive. According to an analysis by COVID Act Now, the positive test rate in Texas as of August 14 is 23.7%, which is a “relatively high percentage” and “indicates that testing in Texas is limited and that most cases likely go undetected.”
“At these levels, it is hard to know how fast COVID is actually spreading, and there is very high risk of being surprised by a wave of disease. More testing urgently needed,” the web-based initiative warned.
Similarly, Florida and Nevada have positive test rates of 17.7% and 14.3%, respectively, which indicate insufficient testing.
“Reductions in testing are not concerning when you have an already low positivity rate that is flat or further decreasing. But reductions in testing coupled with increasing positivity is disconcerting," Marta Wosinska, the deputy director of Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, told Axios.
“This means that a lot of viral activity is not being recorded just as we are trying to make critical decisions like whether to reopen schools,” she added.
This week, the American Medical Association, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the Association for Molecular Pathology, the Association of Pathology Chairs, the College of American Pathologists and the Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote a joint letter to US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, expressing their concerns about strained testing services for COVID-19.
“As you know, the supply chain for testing supplies has been under tremendous strain from overwhelming global demand,” the statement notes. “Laboratories in hospitals and academic centers have been particularly hard hit by strains on the supply chain and have been unable to obtain a consistent supply of reagents, swabs, plastics, viral transport media, and other items that they require.”
“The shortages have been particularly burdensome for laboratories in these settings as they are on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients and must be able to appropriately triage incoming patients so as to best control the infection within those facilities,” the letter continues.
The latest data by Worldometer shows that more than 5.4 million cases of the virus have been confirmed in the US, and almost 170,000 people have died as a result.