The US is severely under-testing for coronavirus as death toll and new cases rise

The US is severely under-testing for coronavirus as death toll and new cases rise

trump coronavirus cdc

Tom Brenner/Reuters

President Donald Trump (center) delivers remarks during a tour of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, March 6, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • The United States is severely under-testing for COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. In places like South Korea and the United Kingdom, thousands have been tested.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some 1,583 people in the US have been tested for the novel coronavirus.
  • Despite President Donald Trump's claim that "anybody that wants a test gets a test," experts have implored public-health officials to ramp up their response to the US outbreak of COVID-19.
  • So far, 22 people in the US have died from COVID-19 and there are at least 566 infections.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Anybody that wants a test gets a test," President Donald Trump said last week, attempting to dispel concerns about the United States' capacity to confront the COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed 22 Americans and infected at least 566, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

On Saturday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it had tested 1,583 people since the first US cases emerged in January. But the CDC is not publicizing real-time information on how many Americans have been tested at state and local levels. According to an exclusive report from The Atlantic on Friday, a total of 1,895 people in the US have been tested for the novel coronavirus.

Just as Trump's reassurance falls flat, so does America's public-health response to COVID-19, especially compared to public-health responses around the globe.

Other countries far outpace the US in responding to COVID-19

In South Korea, for instance, more than 140,000 people have been tested for the disease, and 7,382 are infected.


In the United Kingdom, some 23,513 people have been tested, The Telegraph reported Sunday, and 319 cases have been confirmed.

While many health agencies have not released the total number of COVID-19 tests conducted, the sheer number of confirmed infections in a given country is telling: It is a good barometer for the extent to which public-health officials have actively addressed the health crisis.

In China, where the novel coronavirus first broke out, there are more than 80,000 confirmed cases. Over a three-week period, the country tested 320,000 people in Guangdong province alone.

As of March 2, Italy had conducted 23,435 tests, according to a Worldometer database. There are currently 7,375 confirmed cases in an outbreak that has compelled a lockdown of 16 million people in Italy's northern region, the BBC reported.

In the US, 'testing capacity is not currently adequate'

In the United States, experts are urgently calling for increased public-health infrastructure to deal with the national COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, the country is not prepared to meet the scale of the problem.


"Testing capacity is not currently adequate, and we need more," Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an epidemiologist and the senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Health System, told Congress on Friday.

"We need this as soon as we can have it," Maragakis added.

Her testimony came just days after Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US would significantly increase its testing capacities.

"We have more than 2,500 kits that are being distributed around the country this week that will make more than 1.5 million tests available at hospitals that have requested them," Pence said. For each person tested, a double-swab is needed, which means the 1.5 million test kits could be used to test up to 750,000 people.