Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Navy
A medical technician swabs a patient at a COVID-19 testing site.
The nonpartisan public health group Covid Exit Strategy
warned Wednesday that Texas and other Southern states are falling woefully behind on COVID-19 testing, hindering their ability to contain the pandemic.
Texas is one of 18 states, largely in the South, that Covid Exit Strategy considers to have "uncontrolled spread" of the coronavirus. Over the past 14 days, the positivity rate — or the number of COVID-19 tests coming up positive — in the Lone Star State rose from 11.9% to 24.2%, according the group.
That comes as the daily number of tests conducted in Texas hit just 13% of the 500,000 Covid Exit Strategy recommends to effectively contain the spread.
The high positivity rate is evidence that transmission is slipping out of control and that state health officials may not have a full handle on the number of cases, said Marta E. Wosinska, deputy director of policy for the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, one of the partners in Covid Exit Strategy.
"They're probably underestimating the spread in the area," Wosinska said. "Not enough testing is going on."
High positivity rates coupled with low testing rates also make it unlikely that health officials can adequately conduct contact tracing of people who come down with COVID-19, she added.
The rampant spread across the South stands in contrast to the Northeast, where — with a few exceptions — states are bringing their numbers under control, Wosinska said.
After being among the original COVID-19 hotspots, Northeastern states have largely adopted more cautious reopening plans, she said. What's more, residents have also appeared to better heed warnings from health officials.
"It's as people really have to experience this firsthand to realize how serious a situation it is," Wosinska added.
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