Here’s how many people are actually getting tested for the coronavirus in the U.S.

  • In April, the U.S. averaged about 146,000 tests per day
  • More than 38 million Americans have been tested overall
  • Those numbers need to double to safely ease distancing measures

Near the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States was woefully slow to begin widespread testing. This slow start has been widely politicized, with each side of the political aisle placing blame on the other. Average Americans remain confused over how much testing is actually happening within our borders and how much testing we still need to complete to safely reopen the country.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, more than 38 million Americans had been tested for COVID-19 as of July 9. These numbers have been climbing far more rapidly in recent weeks. The population of the U.S. is an estimated 329 million. 

California has administered the highest number of tests. The state had processed more than 5.07 million tests as of July 9. The next closest state, New York, had processed more than 4.46 million tests. Wyoming had the lowest number of processed tests, at only 39,000.

Each new day in April saw an average of about 146,000 people getting tested. To reopen the country by May, researchers at Harvard estimated tests will need to increase by more than double. Researchers believe between 500,000 and 700,000 tests should be administered country-wide on a daily basis. This is necessary so that any carriers for the virus can be identified and isolated in an effort to mitigate the spread. 

Despite the fact that far more testing is needed, a Nature investigation found thousands of unused tests languishing in labs. A researcher at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard told the publication that the lab is currently processing about half of what they are capable of. The website wrote that “regulatory, logistic, and administrative obstacles” have been limiting their ability to process more tests. 

Claims that the U.S. has performed more testing per capita than anywhere else in the world are false, according to an NPR analysis. U.S. testing was at about 1 in every 273 people at the beginning of April. The U.K., in the same time period, had tested around 1 in every 404 people. The countries that were doing the most testing per capita were South Korea and Germany. The two countries have tested approximately 1 in every 119 people and 1 in every 90 people, respectively. 

On June 20, President Donald Trump said at a rally in Oklahoma that he wanted to slow down testing, because with more testing, “you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases.” His staff claimed he was kidding, but on June 23, Trump tweeted, “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”

Sources: New York Times, The COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute, NPR, Politico, Nature

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