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Coronavirus Chaos

Why Is Coronavirus Testing Down a Massive 30%?

Coronavirus Testing
UCSF infectious disease researchers and The Latino Task Force for COVID19 in partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) and the City and County of San Francisco launched an effort to provide comprehensive, voluntary COVID-19 testing to all residents of a densely populated and highly Latin neighborhood of San Francisco’s Mission District. Katie Machado, RN, UCSF Nurse Practitioner Student, collects a nasal sample from a local resident at the Parque Ninos Unidos site.

The latest data have revealed that vaccination rates are indeed climbing and that there is a sizeable decline in daily new coronavirus cases compared to the beginning of the year.

But there is one particular trend that is becoming a growing concern for health officials: Coronavirus testing being conducted in the United States has plummeted by 30 percent in recent weeks.

According to medical experts, much of that can be attributed to complacency among pandemic-weary Americans who are itching to return to their normal lives. Many are already aware that daily cases have plummeted from three hundred thousand at the pandemic’s peak to roughly seventy thousand now—a baseline that’s still too high for White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“We don’t want to continue to prevent people from doing what they want to do. But let’s get down to a good level,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday in an interview on the CBS program Face the Nation.

“Let’s get many, many more people vaccinated. And then you could pull back on those types of public health measures. But right now, as we’re going down and plateauing is not the time to declare victory because we’re not victorious yet,” he added.

Other experts have pointed toward fewer exposures to the virus, less long-distance travel with the winter holiday rush concluded, and the severe winter storms that battered much of the country last month, which caused many testing sites to close their doors temporarily.

“My sense is that it’s probably that there are fewer options for testing, fewer communications about it, people may be perceiving that it’s less necessary—maybe they just don’t see the point anymore,” Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the New York Times.

But “there’s nothing about the current situation that has made testing any less necessary.”

According to the COVID Tracking Project, the United States saw a high of nearly fourteen million COVID-19 tests per week in early January, but that pace dipped to fewer than ten million—a level not witnessed since October—for the week ending on February 24.

Some states and counties have reported even sharper declines. For example, Michigan is currently testing about half as many people as it was in November, Delaware’s state-run sites are testing about one-third as many, and Los Angeles County’s testing sites only reached 35 percent of their overall capacity last week.

As of Monday, 75.2 million Americans have been vaccinated, along with 24.8 million people having received their second shot, according to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

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Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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