Plummet in COVID-19 testing could be hiding infection rates

As omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 gain traction and infection "waves" slam into California, Texas, and St. Louis, infectious disease experts warn the nearly 80 percent decrease in testing over the last three months is disguising the current COVID-19 risk. 

On April 12, the CDC tracked 964,373 tests. The latest data available shows that on June 12, 210,180 tests were reported — amounting to a 78.21 percent drop. 

Many say the reason for the decrease in numbers is more people taking at-home tests instead of going to mass testing sites at hospitals, according to experts. 

"We have to assume that the reported numbers are the tip of the iceberg," Stephen Liang, MD, an infectious diseases and emergency medicine physician at St. Louis-based Barnes-Jewish Hospital, told the St. Louis Dispatch

Some testing centers plan to close their sites at the end of June, including two locations in Kentucky and a site in Jacksonville, Fla.

Boston Children's Hospital epidemiologist John Brownstein, PhD, told ABC News the low testing numbers are allowing for a "false sense of relief."

"Many areas with high rates of transmission are deemed to be low risk only because of data reporting gaps and lags," Dr. Brownstein said. 

Nationwide, the infection rate has leveled off to an average of 100,000 new cases a day, according to U.S. News & World Report.

 

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