The COVID-19 testing picture in the U.S. is far from easy to understand, given the disparate agencies and public and private health organizations involved. Johns Hopkins, building on its excellent work developing COVID-19 case tracking and basic information resources, has developed a new hub called the COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative that breaks down what kinds of tests are available, as well as where they’re being administered in the U.S., and in what volume.
The new hub offers answers to commonly asked questions like how COVID-19 is currently diagnosed, what the differences are between the two major types of tests used (molecular and serological) and what is required for testing in terms of both payment and qualifying symptoms/exposure risk.
Crucially, it also provides a state-by-state breakdown of how many tests have been performed, graphed against the total number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths in that state. They also provide a report on the weekly rate of change in positive tests across all states, showing whether there’s been an increase in the number of positive tests or a decrease on a week-over-week basis, and in either case, by how much.
Johns Hopkins notes that the data may not be consistent, as it’s being pulled from a number of publicly available sources, and it notes further that states themselves are not consistent. The school says it’s doing what it can to account for the irregularities that result from inconsistent reporting, but doesn’t want to misrepresent the data.
The overall picture of how many tests have been completed, as well as where and by whom, along with positive results, has been a topic of a lot of confusion and debate. The White House has consistently provided numbers that are out of sync with the reality in terms of numbers reported by states, particularly when it comes to test volume.
The Johns Hopkins hub provides likely the best source yet for a good snapshot of the current state of testing on a state-by-state basis, and the resource will be updated regularly with new info as it becomes available. Widespread testing is a key ingredient in any effective COVID-19 control measures, and this should act as a sort of report card to provide an indicator as to how well we’re doing on this front.