This increase in testing capacity has been slow. In the 10 days following February 26, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that coronavirus was being transmitted through the spread of the community in the United States, federal and state laboratories tested 2,806 Americans. Another week passed before the country tested 20,000 people. Over the next few days, the country expanded its testing capability to cover at least that number of people every day.
Yet national numbers are still skewed by huge testing operations in a few states. New York, California and Washington have conducted nearly half of all tests nationwide, although those states together contain about a fifth of the country’s population. Florida and Texas – each home for over 20 million people – tested only around 3,000 patients each.
Some state public health departments do not report as much information as others. We have given each state a literal rating in the table above to help readers understand how accurate each is in their relationship. This vote is not evaluating the quality of a state’s tests, but rather the transparency and regularity of its reports.
All 50 states and Washington, DC regularly report their number of positive cases. Some states, such as Connecticut, reveal little additional information, so we have rated them D. But others, such as Florida, publish not only their positive cases, but also their negative cases and the results of tests conducted by private laboratories. These states get one A degree. Having this complete set of state level figures allows for a much greater understanding of the size of both outbreaks is the answer.
In the table above, the number of positive cases in each state includes people who are currently sick with the disease, people who have recovered from it and people who have died. We also split the death toll into its own column.
Some states have used strict criteria to determine who can and cannot be tested for coronavirus. Although we have not taken them into account at the state level, we believe that these rules – although perhaps necessary, given the lack of tests available from the CDC – have led states to underestimate substantially how many people had been infected in their communities, especially during the last week of February and the first two weeks of March. At least 18 states have imposed particularly strict rules in some counties or hospitals: California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. (Some of these states, such as Hawaii and Maryland, have since loosened their criteria.)