The US needs to conduct at least 500,000 tests for Covid-19 every day to be able to successfully open the economy and stay open, according to three Harvard researchers.
Currently, about 150,000 tests per day are completed, and about 20% of those tests have been positive. More testing is necessary to be able to capture who is infected and might put others at risk, researchers said.
The current percentage of tests that are positive in the US is too high, the researchers said. The World Health Organization has suggested that an adequate test positive rate should be between 3 and 12%, while the US rate is around 20%.
To achieve a 10% test positivity rate by May 1, about 580,000 people per day would need to be tested, research shows. If instead, contact tracing is considered and an estimated 10 contacts are tested for each estimated positive case by May 1, about 535,000 tests would need to be conducted per day.
The researchers include:
- Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute
- Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Benjamin Jacobson, research assistant at the Harvard Global Health Institute
Scholars believe the numbers are underestimated, Jha wrote in an email to CNN. She said a formal write-up of their research will be available in the future.
“If we can’t be doing at least 500,000 tests a day by May 1, it is hard to see any way we can remain open,” the researchers wrote.
President Donald Trump told reporters the US has conducted more than 3.78 million coronavirus tests to date at a Friday White House briefing.