Why is COVID testing still so haphazard?

Test results come too late for therapeutic decisions … and “the science” still can’t answer basic questions.

Let’s dig into some numbers today…

Based on some back-of-the envelop arithmetic, I estimate that about 13 million Covid tests have been administered in the 3 weeks ending July 13

Note: The time period is strictly arbitrary.  And, since I don’t have all of the daily data series, I just derived rough estimates off the charts. I doubt conclusions would change much with a different time period or more precise numbers 


Now, let’s drill down on those numbers….


Of the roughly 13 million tests that were reported, over 12 million (94%) came back covid-negative’.

Note: Practically all headline reporting is “confirmed cases” — the test results that were covid-positive. Total test minus positive results estimates negative results.


My 1st question is who the heck are these 12 million people who are testing negative … and why, in the first place, are they even being covid-tested.

Some possibilities:

  • They’re exhibiting flu-like symptoms that might indicate covid.
  • They know (or think) that they’ve been exposed to the virus … via a super-spreader person or at a superspreading event
  • Their employer is making them take the test (e.g. frontline healthcare workers)
  • They’re participating in a medical research project (e.g. a vaccine trial)
  • They’ve been selected to be part of a random surveillance sample
  • They’re trying to be good citizens by participating in the “test, test, test” program
  • They’re just curious as to whether or not they’re infected.

I think the top 5 categories are pretty legit.

The last 2 strike me as a waste of constrained testing capacity.

Regardless, wouldn’t it be nice to know how the 12 million sorts out by those categories?

Apparently, that sort of classification data isn’t captured at the  point-of-testing … or, public health officials just aren’t making the data available.

That’s too bad


Moving on…

Less than 1 million of the 13 million tested Covid-positive … a “positivity rate” of 6%.

Who are these people and how are they treated when they’re tagged as infected?

I’d like to know:

  • How many present with severe, mild or no symptoms?
  • Do they have co-morbidities or not?  If yes, how many? Which ones?
  • What treatment plan is prescribed? Hospitalization? Quarantine? R&R?

Again, it appears that this sort of classification data isn’t captured at the  point-of-testing … or, public health officials just aren’t making the data available.


Bottom line: We need to focus constrained testing resources on therapeutic decision incidences … and, we need to gather and analyze more classification so that the testing helps pin down how this virus is acting.

Testing that simply increases the number of tests doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere.

4 Responses to “Why is COVID testing still so haphazard?”

  1. Sue Colletti Says:

    There’s another category of people who get tested: those required by a hospital to get tested before a procedure or test ( e.g. stress test, colonoscopy).

  2. Dixie C Says:

    A friend who had cataract surgery was required to have COVID tests twice, each within 3 days of each surgery to rule out infection. That group helps dilute positivity rates, too, since they are not being tested due to symptoms or possible exposure.

    I am interested in an important, but apparently unavailable heatmap of how many in each area currently have ACTIVE infection (not just a cumulative count of how many overall diagnosed positive since March). The positivity rate is currently the closest thing we have to approximating that, especially since many who test positive are then sent home to recover, (pirobably without active virus retesting after symptons subside?).

    Additionally, I’m particularly interested in learning more about those with COVID-19 who are admitted to hospitals rather than being sent home to ride out their disease:
    e.g., ages, comorbidities/conditions that add to risk from C-19 infection, length of skilled nursing hospitalizations, length of inpatient or outpatient rehab treatments after hospitalization discharge, and how many are discharged to hospice care due to damage.

    That information would give a more accurate picture of the severity and personal risk associated with Coronavirus SAR-2 exposure.

  3. C-19: State-level Cases, Deaths, Rates | The Homa Files Says:

    […] See: Why is COVID testing still so haphazard? […]

  4. How many people are walking around infected with Covid-19? | The Homa Files Says:

    […] testing procedures don’t answer the question (see: Why is COVID testing still so haphazard?) … so, the “experts” fixate on metrics that are muddled and potentially misleading (see: […]

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