A blog answering common questions about SARS-CoV-2 (aka Coronavirus) and the disease it causes, COVID-19. I'll be focusing on questions that I have personally had difficulty finding the answer to.
Disclaimer: The COVID-19 pandemic changes rapidly. I can only guarantee correct information at the time of publication, though I will try to keep things up-to-date. If you need medical advice please contact your medical provider.
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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.
Update 4/6/2020: There has been an explosion of data and infographics for testing data in the United States. Here are couple that I like:
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…
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.