Health Care

California should double its coronavirus testing to control outbreak, Harvard scientists say

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California must double the number of tests in order to contain its recent surge of coronavirus cases, Harvard University recently said.

In a report from the Harvard Global Health Institute, scientists explained the differences between mitigation and suppression in relation to COVID-19.


“Currently, a lot of states are essentially aiming for mitigation level testing: The focus is on reducing the spread of the virus through broad testing of symptomatic people, tracing and testing a recommended 10 contacts per new case and isolating positive contacts, and social distancing, mask wearing or stay-at-home orders as necessary,” they wrote.

However, they warned, “There is a challenge with this approach: As states open up, mitigation level testing is often not sufficient to prevent new outbreaks.”

Suppression level testing, meanwhile, “allows a state or community to quickly find and isolate new cases before they lead to a wider outbreak, with an aim of keeping new case levels at or near zero,” they noted.

On average, California conducts about 85,000 tests each day. To mitigate the virus’s spread, the state should up that number to 223,000 per day, according to estimates from the Harvard Global Health Institute, as cited by The San Francisco Chronicle. To suppress the virus, the state should conduct 825,000 tests per day, according to the newspaper.

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The estimates come as California recorded its highest daily coronavirus count for the third time in just over a week on Monday, with 8,000 infections while also surpassing 6,000 deaths.

The uptick comes as the virus continues to make a resurgence after months of unprecedented orders to combat its spread. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that hospitalizations have increased 43 percent over a two-week period, and patients admitted to intensive care units increased 37 percent during the same time period.

The COVID-19 positivity rate increased to nearly 6 percent, he added.

“California is a good cautionary tale,” Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and health policy expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

“It shows you that even in a state that has done well, how important it is to stay vigilant because the pot is always on the verge of boiling over. If you are only keeping up with the bare minimum of testing all you are doing is barely keeping the lid on the pot,” he added.

Tsai noted that the recommended testing levels could decrease should wearing masks and social distancing prove effective in decreasing cases.


It’s not yet clear if state officials will increase testing levels to those recommended by the Harvard scientists. A spokesperson for the California Department of Health did not immediately return Fox News’s request for comment.

To date, California has reported more than 230,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 6,000 virus-linked deaths, per official estimates.

Fox News’s Louis Casiano contributed to this report. 

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