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Why is Coronavirus Antibody Testing Important? Is Antibody Testing Available Yet?

There are a few different types of tests for COVID-19. Currently the most common is a PCR test, which detects genetic material from the virus. PCR tests are great because they are highly specific - they have a very low rate of false positives. If the test is positive, you can be certain you have COVID-19. But the test only works on patients who are sick and still have the virus in their body. What if you want to know if someone had COVID-19 in the past? That's where antibody tests (also known as serology) comes in.

For more details, keep reading.

Recent posts

Why Is Oregon Still on Lockdown?

A blog post gaining traction in Oregon was brought to my attention. The post makes some dangerous claims, and argues that Oregon should be reopened. I understand the desire to reopen as soon as possible, but the claims made in the post are wrong and dangerous - read below to understand why.

Where are we in the cycle of the disease?
"Professor Hinkley", the author of the post (I'm not providing a link because I don't want to spread false information) claims that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 began decreasing before the lockdown began. To support his claim, he annotates a graph published by the Oregon Health Authority on April 5th:
The biggest problem with Hinkley's analysis is the annotation he wrote over in his graph (and I have circled below): as of April 4th, illnesses between 3/25 and 4/4 may not be reported yet.

Hinkley says the number of cases started to decline even before Oregon implemented "Shelter In Place" on March 23rd.  At firs…

How Many Mechanical Ventilators Are there In The United States?

The past few days has brought a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not we have enough mechanical ventilators for the impending tsunami of COVID cases. Many news sources are reporting that we only have 62,000 ventilators nationwide. This simply isn't true. Best estimate of the number of mechanical ventilators in the United States is just over 200,000. For more details, keep reading.

The best estimate of the number of mechanical ventilators in the US come from a report published on 3/13/20 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), the group that represents ICU healthcare providers.  This report utilized a 2009 survey of hospitals to estimate that about 62,000 mechanical ventilators were readily available -- this is where the 62,000 ventilators being reported in the press came from. However, if you read the entire report you will notice that there are additional sources of ventilators, including 98,738 that hospitals keep in storage for emergencies, about 8,900 that are hel…

How Many COVID-19 Tests Can The USA Run Each Day?

The short answer is:  at the time of this writing (March 18th, 2020), the US is able to perform 36,810 COVID tests daily. This number is increasing daily, and updates can be found on twitter at @COVID2019tests. More details below.

After an awful start, US testing capability has dramatically increased over the past two weeks, and should continue to increase as lab testing companies like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics ramp things up. When we began testing for COVID in the united states, the CDC required that each patient have two swabs performed - one swab of the nostrils and one of the mouth. Last week the CDC got rid of that requirement which effectively doubled our testing capability. Unfortunately, we are still dramatically underdetecting COVID in the United States; several epidemiologists have calculated that we need to be performing about 100,000 tests per day in order to catch up with the disease. The @COVID2019tests twitter provides semi-regular updates on our testing capability.

What Actions Have State & Local Authorities Taken to Slow Down the COVID epidemic?

In most countries, the response to COVID-19 has been dictated by the federal government, even if the actions taken were localized. The US response (through some combination of political philosophy and federal incompetence) has largely been left to the states, with federal organizations primarily providing "guidelines". This has made it difficult to track 

Fortunately Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the FDA, has been tracking the containment and mitigation measures that are being put into place. You can find a list of each measure here. The website is regularly updated, and news is regularly blasted out on the associated Twitter account, @ If you are looking for information specific to your area, I recommend you look at the above link in addition to the website of your local public health department. Obviously the CDC has important information as well, but Dr. Gottlieb's site is the only place I've found with a comprehensive lis…

How Many Patients in America Have Been Tested for COVID-19?

At the time I am writing this (9pm PST, March 17, 2020): 58,590 patients have been tested for COVID-19. This number changes quickly. Read below on how to get up-to-date info. Finding the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is easy - a quick google search will give you a list of websites displaying case data (my two favorites are worldometers and Johns Hopkins). But what if you want to know the number of patients who have been tested? That info is a bit more difficult to find. The best source I’ve found is the COVID tracking project. The project was born out of the fact that the CDC has provided extremely limited testing data throughout this epidemic (at one point, the CDC deleted all testing data from its website). It is currently being run by Alexis Madrigal, a staff writer at The Atlantic, with assistance from dozens of volunteers. The project collects data from state and county public health departments as well as any other verifiable news source in order to provide the mo…