For the past several days, President Trump has been saying the reason that we’re seeing increases in the number of COVID-19 cases is the result of more Americans being tested. This might have been true back in April back before the country was really started to increase testing, but isn’t the case now. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at John Hopkins University, said “The way to tell whether a rise in cases is indicative of increased spread in the population — rather than a byproduct of conducting more tests — is by seeing how many tests are identifying infections.”
According to information from John Hopkins, in March we were testing about 20,000 people day and the number of positive cases was close to 20%. It was about this time that the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that countries need to do enough testing that under 5% of the people taking them are positive. In April, our daily testing increased to 130,000 with a positivity rate over 10%. Throughout May, the volume of tests steadily grew and the positivity rate fell. Finally, in June, we met the WHO guidelines with fewer than 5% of tests being positive, but to achieve this, we’re now doing 500,000 tests a day. This proves that we weren’t doing enough tests early on, but are now.
The increase in testing has made it easier to pinpoint were hotspots are. Currently, most of the new cases are in Florida, Texas and Arizona. A good example of testing capacity versus new infections is Florida. In the spring, the state significantly increased their testing capacity. This brought the positivity rate down from 11% (early April) to less than 4% (mid-May). However, in the past few days it’s started climbing again and is now over 10%. This rise is happening despite nothing changing as far as testing capacity. Texas and Arizona are seeing similar scenarios.
These aren’t the only states to see a surge in cases. As of Monday, 29 states and US territories have seen an increase in their seven-day average of new cases. In these areas, hospitalizations are rapidly escalating too. This is causing many state and city leaders to implement new rules and scale back reopening plans. Some areas are requiring anyone who is in a public space to wear a face covering that conceals their nose and mouth. Several officials have issued warnings that if the trend continues, they may consider various forms of stay-at-home orders or other similar measures.