Coronavirus. Testing 1-2-3
It was barely six weeks ago on March 1st, that the CDC claimed that only 15 Americans were sick with the coronavirus. Clearly this was an illusion and the virus was already everywhere. Some estimates say that there were already 10,000 Americans that had been infected. Now here in mid-April and we just passed 600,000 cases of infection and close to 24,000 deaths here in the U.S. In these confusing times important questions about testing and statistical analysis should be paramount in understanding what is going on. New York seems to be the epicenter for infections in the U.S., but New York has also tested 13x more people on a per capita basis than any other state. California, with its large population base has completed fewer tests per capita than the country’s next five largest states. We can’t be getting clear data if smaller states such as Massachusetts and Washington are showing high outbreaks due to wider testing, and more populous states such as Texas and California show less of an outbreak with less testing. Clearly, testing is the heart of the problem regarding an analysis of what exactly our country has been dealing with and how we can move forward without fear.
The standard recommended testing utilizes a long nasal turbinate swab test to the nasopharyngeal area (the back of the nasal cavity) which is then tested for the virus’s RNA by a method called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) that can pick up genetic material of the virus. In most circumstances results come back within 8-24 hours. Abbott labs has a device that has a much quicker turnaround time. In as little as 5 minutes a positive can be determined and within 13 minutes a negative. No test is 100% accurate, the nasal turbinate test even when performed correctly by a medical professional has an accuracy rate like the Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs) which run about 50%-70% accurate. More than 70 companies have signed up to sell serology tests or “at home antibody tests” which typically use a finger-prick of blood on a test strip to identify people who either have the virus or have developed immunity to it. Rutgers University just got FDA approval for a simple saliva test they developed that can be done to see if you are infected or over your infection.