The United States is not testing enough people for the coronavirus, and many who are tested must wait days for the results.
Across the country, most states are not testing enough people to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and major backlogs are delaying the results of those who are tested. The two problems persist months after widespread testing began.
The United States should be testing 1.9 million people per day in order to help slow the spread of the virus, according to Harvard's Global Health Institute. On Thursday, the nation was averaging 758,000 tests per day, the New York Times reported, or roughly 40% of the testing that should be happening.
Breaking down the data by state, the Times noted that only 10 states and Washington, D.C., were meeting testing goals, while 36 were "far below" the target. The remaining four states were "near" their target goal.
Even though the number of people tested is lower than it should be, governors have raised alarms about significant delays in receiving results.
"The national testing scene is a complete disgrace," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Sunday on "Meet the Press." Waiting as many as nine days for a test result makes it "almost useless from an epidemiological or even diagnostic perspective," the first-term Democrat added.
Kaiser Health News reported: "A wait of a week or more for results can make the tests moot, since few people, especially those without symptoms, are likely to remain quarantined that long — and if the test comes back positive, they may already be over the disease." Sick people who have been tested but do not have a confirmed diagnosis may not quarantine, and may spread the virus.
In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock said that Quest Diagnostics, a diagnostic testing company, promised two-to-three-day turnaround on testing in the spring, but recently wait times increased to a week or more.
A Quest spokesperson told Kaiser that "some of these constraints are out of our control," including a lack of machines and testing materials needed to get the results.
The twin problems of not enough testing and delayed results are happening months after Donald Trump vowed to make testing easy and accessible.
"Anybody that wants a test can get a test," Trump proclaimed on March 6 during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For months following the announcement, many Americans who wanted a test were unable to get one.
During a mid-March Rose Garden address, Trump promised numerous drive-through testing facilities would appear all over the country, but few materialized in the weeks that followed.
As the pandemic got worse in the United States, Trump changed his tune, at one point saying his administration would slow down testing.
"I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please,'" Trump said at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. When asked about the comment, Trump told CBN News that less testing would result in fewer coronavirus cases, an argument he has repeated often.
"Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding," Trump tweeted on June 23. "With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!"
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told Kaiser: "The implication that not testing makes the problem go away is completely false. It could not be more false."
As of Thursday, the United States has had more than 4 million confirmed cases, and at least 143,722 people have died.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.