COVID-19 – Virginia is the Most Under Tested State in the Union

by James C. Sherlock

I have told readers that I will update the state testing rankings here regularly. In a spreadsheet that I constructed using testing data from the COVID Tracking Project and Bureau of the Census data for population of 50 states and D.C., Virginia ranks 48th in testing per 100,000 citizens as of Monday May 4.

Virginia had tested 1,321 people per 100,000 citizens. Top ranked Rhode Island had tested 6,996 per 100,000. Second ranked New York 5,178. Neighboring Maryland 2,266. Tennessee 3,096. North Carolina 1,396. West Virginia 2,971.

Readers will have their own theories why we continue to lag so badly in testing, but lag we do.

Unfortunately, there is another statistic in which we rank much higher – percent of processed tests returning positive. In that statistic, we rank 14th, at 17.4% positive results. All of the states that have a higher percentage of tests returning positive have tested a far greater percentage of their populations than Virginia.

So one easily can make the case that Virginia is the most under tested of any state in the union given the need for testing demonstrated by our confirmed positive rate. That is really not a hard call.

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12 responses to “COVID-19 – Virginia is the Most Under Tested State in the Union

  1. Thank you for keeping us updated. Is there any way to know what the number of backlogged unreported negative tests is, or if VDH is continuing to not report on all test results received?

  2. Virginia’s backlog was 478, but because it is one of the few states to report pending tests, those cannot be used in the state rankings.

  3. To the extent VA has been more restrictive, focusing its limited tests on those most likely to be positive, no surprise it gets more positive results. The other states clearly have been casting the net wider. Now that the state is counting multiple tests on a single individual, it gets even more confusing…

  4. Every state is using the same basic priorities for testing, Steve. All of them test the most likely to be positive, starting with those with symptoms, seniors in nursing homes, first responders and medical personnel. (Those numbers are large. As example, just with nursing homes, Virginia has almost 18,000 nursing home employees and almost 28,000 nursing home residents). No state has gotten much past those basic priorities.

  5. Picking up on the thread of who is getting tested, I think we should explore that topic more deeply. Yes, it is important to increase the volume of testing in Virginia. But scattershot testing won’t reveal much of anything useful, particularly if most of it comes from private labs…. which are testing people who ask to be tested.

    Should Virginia institution randomized testing to get a sense of what’s happening in each region and community? If so, how much testing would that require. Is 10,000 a useful number, enough to generate representative samples at the community level, or do we need more?

  6. I’ll expand on the answer I gave Steve:
    people with symptoms;
    patients and staff in nursing homes;
    persons with co-morbidities that make them particularly vulnerable;
    first responders; and
    medical personnel.
    Once we have sufficient testing for those, and we don’t, then the rest of Virginians can go about their lives maintaining social distancing with low risk.

    • In Virginia, the apparent rule is that last on list for testing are those who work in private sector, particularly Republicans who work or want to work in private sector.

  7. Where should they test? Who should they test? Why should they test? What should they do with the results? Which unvalidated test should they use?

  8. Just came from an appointment at Dalton Clinic at VCU, where I go every two weeks for a shot (cancer maintenance treatment). They are going to start requiring all patients to get a Covid test the day before their appointment. It’s not clear how often they will have to be tested. The tests will be done there at VCU, results coming back in a few hours.

  9. Update: Not all Dalton clinic patients have to be tested before appointments. They are testing those with certain chemotherapies, those having procedures (like biopsies), and those being admitted. There is a drive through site on the top of the parking garage, and appointments for Covid testing are set up for one or two days before the appointments for treatment.

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