At least 4 states combined numbers from two tests, possibly providing a misleading picture of coronavirus spread

By Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) At least four states combined data from two different test results, potentially providing a misleading picture of when and where coronavirus spread as the nation eases restrictions.More than 1.5 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus and over 93,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus testing is ‘a mess’ in the US, report saysVirginia, Texas, Georgia, and Vermont have said they’ve been adding two numbers to their totals: viral test results and antibody test results.Viral tests are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, and look for direct evidence someone currently has Covid-19. By contrast, antibody tests use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.Combining the two tests’ results into one total could provide an inaccurate picture of where and when the virus spread.The combination also could also overstate a state’s ability to test and track active infections — a key consideration as states ease coronavirus restrictions.Experts have consistently emphasized that for states to reopen safely, adequate testing and tracing is needed.”You only know how many cases you have if you do a lot of testing,” said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN’s senior medical correspondent. “If you put the two tests together, you fool yourself into thinking you’ve done more testing than you have.”Texas, Virginia and Vermont have said they’ve recognized the data issue and moved to fix it in the past few days. In Georgia, health officials said they’ve been adding antibody tests to their “total tests” number in line with methodology from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The CDC has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on whether its guidance includes adding antibody tests to total test numbers. On its website, the database provides daily test results without a breakdown of whether they’re viral or antibody.

US testing data ‘kind of screwed up,’ experts say

In a new report Wednesday, infectious disease experts described US coronavirus testing as disorganized and in need of coordination at the national level.Testing is currently not accurate enough to be used to make most decisions on who should go back to work or to school, the team at the University of Minnesota said.”It’s a mess out there,” said Mike Osterholm, head of the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, which issued the report. “Testing is very, very important, but we’re not doing the right testing.”The number of tests that have been completed — numbers widely reported by states and by the White House — show only part of the picture, the report reads.”The data is really kind of screwed up,” Osterholm said. “It’s because the public health system is overwhelmed.”Just this month, researchers described antibody tests in the United States as having “terrible accuracy” with high rates of false positives.And in recent days, Georgia and Florida have faced questions about the transparency of their coronavirus data reporting….

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https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/21/health/us-coronavirus-thursday/index.html