The US should be testing at least 900,000 people a day by May 15 if there is to be any hope of getting ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, a team at the Harvard Global Health Institute said Thursday. That’s up from the institute’s previous recommended target of 500,000 a day.
“This is due to a growing consensus among experts that the US is faring worse in this outbreak than previously thought,” the institute said in a statement.
“Social distancing measures have been able to stall the sharp increase of infection and death rates — but unlike in many other nations, new cases are only very slowly decreasing and death rates have plateaued at around 1,800 each day.”
Harvard published the new goals alongside reporting from NPR that suggests 41 states are not testing enough residents.
“As of this week, national testing is still stalled at around 250,000 daily tests,” the Harvard team said.
Yet many states are starting to allow businesses to reopen and people to return to beaches, parks and other recreation sites. States should not be loosening these restrictions yet, the group advised.
“Daily new cases should have been in decline for at least 14 days, for example, and states need to have a solid infrastructure in place for testing, tracing contacts of those whose tests have come back positive, and isolating all infected individuals regardless of symptoms,” the institute advised.
“Ultimately, I am deeply worried that four, six, eight weeks down the road we're going to find ourselves in the exact same place we were in in early March, and we will have to shut the economy down again,” institute director Dr. Ashish Jha said in a statement.
"For states that look like they're meeting their testing goals, I wouldn't take that as too much comfort, because the number of cases will start going up,” Jha added.
In states that are starting to relax restrictions meant to contain the spread of the virus, even more testing will be needed than in states still enforcing lockdowns, Jha’s team said.