COVID-19 Update: Buckle Your Seatbelts!

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is surging, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health. Confirmed cases reached 604 yesterday, a one-day increase of 164, the biggest yet. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 victims hospitalized increased to 83, also the biggest one-day increase yet seen in Virginia.

It is difficult to gauge how much the increase in the number of confirmed patients is due to actual spread of the disease and how much to increased availability of testing kits. The number of Virginians tested yesterday, 1,148, also set a record. The evidence I’ve seen suggests that the identified cases represent just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds, if not thousands, of patients with COVID-19 symptoms are not being tested, due to a shortage of tests. In all likelihood, the epidemic has sunk much deeper roots in the population than indicated by the official numbers.

As the production and distribution of testing kits accelerates, a new bottleneck may emerge: a shortage of medical practitioners to administer the tests. Health professionals require training to give the test and they must wear personal protective gear when doing so. The training issue may be a short-lived problem, but the chronic shortage of protective clothing and equipment may be more difficult to solve as scarce supplies are allocated disproportionately to “hot spots” such as New York.