Dr. Fauci Just Said This Is a "Bad Sign" for COVID
The nation's leading infectious disease expert says this one metric is climbing, a clear sign of trouble.
In recent weeks, Americans have started to slowly watch COVID numbers swing in the direction no one wanted them to go. With surges in Midwestern and some Western states, it's clear that the coronavirus is not done with the U.S. yet. But there's one metric in particular that has the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, MD, concerned. "There are some areas of the countries that are doing quite well," Fauci told Wired on Sept. 30. "But we're seeing, in certain parts of the country, upticks in test positivity, which is generally a bad prognostic sign." After an increase in the test positivity rate, Fauci explained, "you're then going to start seeing more cases, more hospitalizations, and then the late effects of perhaps even more deaths." Read on for more on that, and if you want better news from Fauci, He Just Said the 4 Words You've Been Waiting to Hear.
The test positivity rate is the percentage of COVID tests that come back positive out of all the tests conducted in a state. On an Oct. 1 episode of the ABC News podcast Start Here, Fauci explained that "everybody wants to be around 1 percent or less" in terms of test positivity rate. He continued, "2 percent, OK; 3 percent… when you get up to 5 [percent], to 10 [percent], you really got a problem."
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises countries that before reopening, positive test rates should be 5 percent or lower for at least two weeks. Currently, 28 states in the U.S., plus Puerto Rico, are above that threshold, according to COVID data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
In his conversation with Wired, Fauci added, "When you look at the hot spots of transmission, when you've seen people crowded in bars with no masks, that's when you start to see the uptick of test positivity, which leads to increased cases, and then increased hospitalizations."
A high test positivity rate in a given area could mean that the ratio of positive tests is too high (which indicates there's significant community spread) or that the number of tests being administered is too low, according to JHU.
In early August, when COVID was finally starting to loosen its grip on the Sun Belt states, Fauci said an increase in test positivity was becoming a red flag in Midwestern states. "Prior to the surging, you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state," Fauci told Howard Bauchner, MD, editor in chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "It's a good predictor of a surge."
Now, two months later, it appears the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) was right. Four of the five biggest COVID outbreaks in the U.S. are currently in Midwest, according to data from the Harvard Global Health Institute. Read on to learn more about where COVID is surging and for another state on Fauci's radar, check out Dr. Fauci Says This One State Is"Asking for Trouble."
Daily new case rate: 29.4 per 100 residents
Test positivity rate: 17.2 percent
Daily new case rate: 40.1 per 100 residents
Test positivity rate: 21.1 percent
And for further information on the situation in Wisconsin, check out The White House Just Told This State to Use "Maximal Social Distancing."
Daily new case rate: 45.3 per 100 residents
Test positivity rate: 25.9 percent
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Daily new case rate: 54.2 per 100 residents
Test positivity rate: 7.54 percent
And for more on North Dakota, check out This Hard-Hit State Has By Far the Worst COVID Outbreak in the Country.