COVID-19 testing has been a hot topic for discussion – it’s a key marker of our country’s ability to manage the crisis, understand the spread of the virus, and in guides us in providing guidance for reopening measures. Today, we’re highlighting where we stand with COVID-19 testing in the U.S., as well as the latest recommendations for who should be tested.
Where does the US stand with COVID-19 testing?
According to the COVID Tracking Project, the U.S. conducted an average of approximately 340,500 new coronavirus tests per day during the week of May 10. This marks a significant jump in testing from April, and as of May 18, nearly 12 million tests have been conducted. This means that nearly 3 percent of the U.S. population has been tested for the novel coronavirus so far, with an approximate positivity rate of 13 percent.
When will we have a COVID-19 vaccine?
Moderna announced early results of its phase 1 clinical trial for a vaccine. According to the biotechnology company, the phase 1 trial showed the vaccine was successful in developing antibodies at the levels believed to be needed for protection against the virus. Now, the company will move on to phase 2 trials and scale up with a larger sample size to continue vetting the vaccine’s efficacy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently more than 70 coronavirus vaccines in varying stages of development. If all goes well, experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci say it’s possible we could have a vaccine in a year to 18 months.
What kinds of tests are available?
Our recent blog covered the types of COVID-19 tests that are available. In summary, there are diagnostic tests which detect if you currently have COVID-19, and antibody tests which detect if you’ve been infected with COVID-19 in the past and have developed antibodies as a result. The million-dollar question is whether antibodies protect individuals from getting COVID-19 in the future and if so, how long immunity lasts.
Can I get tested?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named the following groups as current testing priorities:
- Hospitalized patients with symptoms
- Healthcare facility workers, workers in congregate living settings, and first responders with symptoms
- Residents in long-term care facilities or other congregate living settings, including prisons and shelters, with symptoms
- Persons with symptoms of potential COVID-19 infection, including: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, new loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea, and/or sore throat.
- Persons without symptoms who are prioritized by health departments or clinicians, for any reason, including but not limited to: public health monitoring, sentinel surveillance, or screening of other asymptomatic individuals according to state and local plans.
Like everything else with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many factors at play when it comes to testing and its availability. For one, there aren’t enough tests for the entire U.S. population at this point. And it’s worth noting that in many cases for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, a test likely won’t change how doctors provide treatment. Many doctors are treating patients with COVID-19 symptoms in the same way, regardless of whether they tested positive or negative.
Testing guidelines and availability varies quite a bit among states and even cities, so your ability to get a test will depend on where you live and perhaps also the rate of community transmission – as some states and cities are focusing on widespread testing for the general population and others are prioritizing testing for essential occupations and those who are very sick. For example, any resident in Los Angeles, Tennessee, Kentucky and soon others, can receive a test. In many other areas, priority is being given to those with higher risk and you may need a doctor’s order. We recommend checking with your health department to see the parameters set for testing in your community.
Does all of this COVID-19 discussion have you feeling overwhelmed? We recently shared some tips for keeping yourself emotionally and mentally healthy during this time, and we’d love to hear about the ways you’re taking care of yourselves these days. Please reach out and share!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Evaluating and Testing Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html.