Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Elise Hammond and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:15 p.m. ET, April 20, 2020
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8:53 a.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Coronavirus testing must increase before America can reopen, experts say  

From CNN's Gina Yu

A medical worker handles a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing center in Springfield, Tennessee, on April 18.
A medical worker handles a coronavirus test at a drive-through testing center in Springfield, Tennessee, on April 18. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The US needs to conduct at least 500,000 tests for Covid-19 every day to be able to successfully open the economy and stay open, according to three Harvard researchers.

Currently, about 150,000 tests per day are completed, and about 20% of those tests have been positive. More testing is necessary to be able to capture who is infected and might put others at risk, researchers said.

The current percentage of tests that are positive in the US is too high, the researchers said. The World Health Organization has suggested that an adequate test positive rate should be between 3 and 12%, while the US rate is around 20%.

To achieve a 10% test positivity rate by May 1, about 580,000 people per day would need to be tested, research shows. If, instead, contact tracing is considered and an estimated 10 contacts are tested for each estimated positive case by May 1, about 535,000 tests would need to be conducted per day.

The researchers include:

  • Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute
  • Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Benjamin Jacobson, research assistant at the Harvard Global Health Institute

Scholars believe the numbers are underestimated, Jha wrote in an email to CNN. She said a formal write-up of their research will be available in the future.

“If we can’t be doing at least 500,000 tests a day by May 1, it is hard to see any way we can remain open,” the researchers wrote.

President Trump told reporters the US has conducted more than 3.78 million coronavirus tests to date at a Friday White House briefing.

6:06 a.m. ET, April 20, 2020

Read up on the latest coronavirus news from the weekend

The coronavirus pandemic continues to infect and kill thousands of people around the US each day. Catch up on the latest updates on the pandemic from over the weekend below:

  • Reopening the economy: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNN Sunday that he thinks it will only be months, not years, before the US economy recovers from the impact of the coronavirus.
  • Contamination at CDC labs may have delayed early testing: The CDC made its test in one of its laboratories, rather than in its manufacturing facilities. This could have caused the tests to not work correctly at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • New data: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis released the names of nursing homes and long-term care facilities with Covid-19 cases on Sunday.
  • Tie the knot: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to sign an executive order allowing couples to get marriage licenses remotely and allowing clerks to perform ceremonies over video.
  • School closures: So far, 31 states and Washington, DC, have either ordered or recommended to close schools through the end of the academic year.
  • Trump on protestors: The President said "some governors have gotten carried away" with social distancing and stay-home measures. He said that "a lot of people don’t have to be told to do what they are doing."
  • Testing needs to triple to reopen America: The US needs to conduct at least 500,000 tests for Covid-19 every day to be able to successfully open the economy and stay open, according to three Harvard researchers. Currently, about 150,000 tests per day are completed