While the majority of states across the country have loosened their restrictions and begin preparing for deconfinement, a new Harvard-NPR analysis suggests that only nine states are actually prepared to reopen safely based on the amount of COVID-19 tests they’ve been able to provide.
Aside from running enough tests to simply contain their outbreaks, the new study suggests that states would also need to have a form of contact tracing in place to properly be able to isolate positive cases and their contacts—otherwise, the virus will inevitably continue to spread.
The states currently meeting the required criteria include Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. According to the study, those states hit the sweet spot of having enough resources to test all infected people as well as anyone who may have been exposed to them before they had symptoms. What’s more, the above states have begun to see a decrease in new infections, with ten percent or less of those tested coming back positive
“The numbers are sobering,” the analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institution said. “Overall, our need for testing has only increased over the past weeks. Less than a dozen states have gotten ahead of this virus.”
States with much larger populations and higher outbreaks per capita, including New Jersey and New York, are running far fewer tests than needed to even begin the process of deconfinement at this point which is why governors in those states are not yet pushing toward reopening.
On the other hand, states that have already begun lifting social distancing measures, including Georgia, Texas, and Colorado are still far from meeting the testing targets that Harvard is putting forward.
The study suggests that the U.S. will need to run more than 900,000 COVID-19 tests per day in order to safely begin opening back up, yet the COVID Tracking Project shows that the country is running just under 250,000 tests per day—nearly a quarter of the required minimum.
In fact, according to the Harvard-NPR analysis, states will need to have access to even more tests than the suggested minimum due to the fact that as we begin to reopen, there will be a spike in new cases.
To give you an idea of what that could look like by state, New Jersey is currently running an average of 6,800 tests per day but will need to run more than 98,000 tests per day in order to reopen responsibly, according to the analysis.
Anthony Fauci testified on Tuesday that the U.S. does not have the coronavirus “completely under control,” and that just because cases may be declining in places like New York, they continue to spike in other parts of the country. Fauci also pointed out that if the rest of the country does not have adequate testing, there will inevitably be many more deaths across the U.S.
COVID-19 is still “highly transmissible” and will not “just disappear,” with time, the physician added.