While critics of wide scale testing, including President Donald Trump have asserted that surges in cases can be explained by increased testing, health experts say that a jump in confirmed cases is usually caused by more people getting sick.
And those experts, who have long urged that testing is a critical tool in the fight against the pandemic, say that the lack of aggressive and consistent testing has contributed to the virus’s spread.
“If we really wanted to get things under control, frequent testing of almost everybody would be one way to do it and we’re, of course, nowhere near that,” Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said. “We’re doing infrequent testing of almost no one.”
There are several reasons why states aren’t conducting enough tests, experts say, including the diminished fear of the virus on the part of some people, who are increasingly getting tired of wearing masks, practicing social distancing and seeking Covid-19 tests.
“The initial level of fear is not at the level that it was,” said Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, which has resorted to offering students T-shirts and raffles as an incentive for testing. “Testing fatigue and mask-wearing fatigue is real.”
Without widespread testing, cities and states don’t have the ability to track who has the virus and who is at risk of getting it, experts say.
“There’s still a dearth of testing,” Lipsitch said, pointing to colleges and sports as areas that are able to operate through the pandemic due to aggressive testing policies. “In places with higher resources, such as universities, you can actually figure out where people are getting exposed and infected.”