Despite Decrease in COVID-19 Testing Rates, Positivity Levels Continue to Improve

March 16, 2021
Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

Although COVID-19 tests fell by 10% during the past week, positive cases fell by a significant 12%, resulting in the ninth consecutive week of a declining national positivity rate.

Although COVID-19 tests fell by 10% during the past week, positive cases fell by a significant 12%, resulting in the ninth consecutive week of a declining national positivity rate.

For the week ending March 10, cases in the United States fell by 54,000, compared to the decrease of 22,000 (5%) the week before. Testing decreased by 1.06 million, compared to a 1 million decrease the previous week. Although declining testing rates typically do not correlate with lower positivity rates, the latest report from Nephron Research suggests that this trend is changing.

This development may be partially attributable to rising vaccine rates, with an average 2.17 doses administered over the past week. This is a 19% increase from the 1.82 million doses administered the previous week, resulting in a 7-day average at its highest level to date. The record day saw 2.9 million shots administered on March 6, according to the report.

Approximately 10.2% of the US population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while approximately 19% have received 1 dose. The researchers noted that a small portion of that 19% has received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

At the state level, New Mexico has delivered the most vaccines, with 26.9% of their residents receiving at least 1 dose, followed by Connecticut (26.6%) and Alaska (26.1%). Of the 98.2 million doses given, the report said 11.2 million have been in California, 7.7 million in Texas, and 6.3 million in Florida. Wyoming has had the fewest doses administered, with just 191,000.

When considering national COVID-19 testing rates, the investigators noted varying rates over the past year. April 2020 saw rates of approximately 1 million tests per week, which grew to 5.7 million, fell to 4.6 million, and now sits at 9.5 million, including the 1.3 million tests reported March 10. At its peak, the country saw 16.2 million weekly tests. Notably, the top 3 states made up 31% of total daily tests, with New York administering 16.3%, Massachusetts administering 7.4%, and Florida administering 6.8%.

Despite the drop over the past week, the investigators noted that this an improvement over earlier testing rates. Still, they said expansion is needed in order to enable relaxation of social distancing measures.

According to the report, the American Enterprise Institute and Duke Margolis both estimate that 750,000 tests per day are necessary in order to start tracing, whereas the Center for American Progress estimated the need at 2.6 million per day and Harvard Safra put the daily total required at approximately 900,000 per day. Despite these recommendations, Harvard Safra recently noted that between 5 million and 20 million per day may be necessary if social distancing interventions prove ineffective, according to the report.

REFERENCE

COVID-19 Tracker March 12, 2021: Weekly Data Review. Nephron Research; March 12, 2021. Accessed March 12, 2021.