A Logic Based Guide to Why Testing for Coronavirus is Crucial

And how the United States low testing is only making it worse

Some countries get it. They hear about a virus that is spreading like wildfire and they start testing like wildfire.

South Korea, for example, within the first week of the outbreak had already managed to test over 66,000 people. Now, a week after that, the country has been able to test 140,000 people.

Let’s talk percentages for a minute. The 66,000 tested out of a population of 51 million comes out to about 13% percent tested in the first week. Now they have tested 27% of the total population. These numbers are still small compared to the total population, but then compare them to the U.S. response.

On January 20, 2020, both the United States and South Korea announced their first cases.

If the U.S. stayed on track with them, then our first week, we should have had 42,510,000 people tested out of our 327 million person population. By now, to match South Korea’s efficiency, we would have tested 88,290,000 people to see if they had the virus, and to try to control its spread.

Since you were wondering, according to the Atlantic this morning, only 1,895 Americans have been tested since that first case on January 20th. This information isn’t even readily available on the CDC website, which has chosen to only report the number of cases confirmed, not the lack of testing being done. The reporters had to track down the information, state by state.

So, what percentage of the United States has been tested, so that we can combat this virus?

A decimal so small it is disturbing- .00058 percent.

This is not from lack of trying.

You can read the cases on Twitter, you can read the reports from Los Angeles Times, and other places online where people have reason to suspect having COVID19, even connections to known cases and still can’t get tested.

This includes a nurse with known contact with a confirmed case who won’t be tested because she was wearing protective gear, so she couldn’t have it.

We already know of more than one case in California where there was no connection to travel. And yet, reports from people, even in California is that doctors won’t authorize the tests unless they know they have interacted with someone confirmed or have traveled to one of the three biggest countries with this outbreak.

Some of this is caused by the shortage, some is that the doctors have no idea where to send patients and some of it is willing denial of possible community transmission, by not testing anyone it might apply to.

The lack of logic here is absolutely astounding. So let me break it down in simple terms that maybe even the government can understand.

1- More tests mean more information, and that is a good thing.

The reason that South Korea and other countries decided to test large numbers of people is because information is power.

If we know who has it now, we can work to stop the spread.

If the government/state/CDC/officials don’t know who has it, they don’t know which schools to close, or which offices to close, or which nursing homes etc. that are going to become breeding grounds for this virus if allowed to continue to operate as normal.

Plus, self quarantine only works if you know you are a risk. Which you can’t know if no one in your area is able to get tested.

2- More tests mean more negative tests, which will lower the death percentage.

Trump has already been working hard to underplay the seriousness of this outbreak. But his administration is literally making it sound worse than it probably is, because of a lack of testing.

The United States percentage of deaths is significantly higher than that of other countries.


Because we pretty much only test people who we already are 99% sure have it because they have pneumonia already, and have a significant other who came back from Wuhan and are struggling. That’s practically the cut to get tested, it appears that you need to be a very serious case to even get access to the limited test supply.

But then it is already too late.

We need to test those who have the mild symptoms so that we have a more accurate count of how many people die from it.

Then, with quarantines (see point 1), we can limit our exposure to the vulnerable, and not force people to death’s door before we grudgingly decide to test.

3- Panic shopping and the stock market dropping are directly linked to fear.

People panic shop for toilet paper because they are scared that they are going to be quarantined and not be able to get some. Then, more people have to panic shop because of the other people’s shopping trips, and know that if they don’t buy any, then there won’t be any left to buy. This cycle continues to worsen as long as fear spreads about contagion.

For the record, I did stock up. I am careful to not use the words “panic shop” because I only bought one extra package of toilet paper, and a good supply of freezer foods and pantry staples in case my family has to quarantine because my daughter is immunocompromised.

But others are buying up toilet paper, hand sanitizer and masks and hoarding these supplies like there is no tomorrow. This is happening around the globe.

Also, people are starting to limit their trips out to stores, only venturing out for the absolute essentials, before scurrying back to their home and relative safety.

This hurts the economy because businesses depend on people to shop, and as businesses lose money, the stocks drop because investors know that without people shopping, the businesses earnings will go down, and stocks will drop when reports come out. So they sell early, to escape the damage, and the stocks drop. This also becomes a self perpetuating cycle, as others see the drop, and also want to minimize their losses, and so on.

Testing, in large numbers, and releasing the data, with specific locations, will help both of these problems.

We Americans have zero certainty that our neighbors are not contagious. See the percentage above. Many probably are, and many also are not. Since we have no way of knowing which the majority of our community happens to be, we are forced to act as if everyone is a carrier, and thus- panic shop and sell off stocks.

If we knew that 6,000 in our state were tested, and that a large percentage of those were negative, then we might be able to go out and shop again.

Like the web in the picture, we are all interconnected, and the lack of testing has doomed the United States from the possibility of an easy end to this problem.

Other countries have closed all schools, restricted large gatherings, even closed cities. The United States has only done some of these in small pockets.

We continue to travel, educate and work as if nothing is wrong, and we carry this virus, invisible to the naked eye, around with us, passing it on unknowingly.

Americans would be willing to quarantine… if they knew they personally needed to, which they won’t know because we have a gross, critically failing lack of tests… and the virus continues to be passed, family to family, neighbor to neighbor, coworker to coworker.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, Sanjay, you and I have discussed this in the past. And you know I’ve been an advocate of much more proactive testing, not only testing when physicians ask for a test, but testing to determine where we are and what level is under the radar.

And for that reason we’re going to need millions and millions and millions of tests. That’s what I feel and that’s what many of my colleagues feel.

If the true experts think our testing should be in the millions, and people should be tested even if they don’t have symptoms, then yeah, I am more than slightly concerned that our current number of people tested is under 2,000.

Let’s Make America Well Again, shall we?

Update from March 18th- My latest on coronavirus numbers:

I am a teacher, with two kids, recently diagnosed with Lupus, and possibly other auto-immune conditions, living life to the fullest, while managing symptoms.

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