• Only nine states have adequate testing regimes in place
  • President Trump has been pushing for states to reopen their economies even though cases have yet to peak and decline
  • An earlier analysis indicates if states don't ramp up testing, they risk fumbling their economic restarts

A Harvard University-NPR analysis indicated Thursday only nine, relatively small U.S. states are doing enough coronavirus testing to safely reopen their economies even though about half are planning to lift restrictions in coming days.

The analysis identified Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming as having adequate testing programs in place but warned contact tracing and isolation of positive cases still would be necessary. For New York to safely open, it would need to run at least 100,000 tests a day. As of Wednesday, the state was running nearly 34,000 tests a day.

Georgia, Texas and Colorado, which are relaxing their social distancing restrictions, are far from meeting minimum testing targets, the analysis indicated. Georgia, for example, is running about 8,600 tests a day but actually needs 26,000 to safely reopen, the analysis found. Texas needs 27,282 but has been running just 17,735.

“The numbers are sobering: Overall, our need for testing has only increased over the past weeks. Less than a dozen states have gotten ahead of this virus,” the analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute said.

In an earlier analysis with STAT, the Harvard researchers said more than half of U.S. states need to step up their testing programs significantly or risk fumbling efforts to reopen their economies.

Though public health officials have said testing is not at the point where the U.S. economy can fully open, President Trump has been pushing states to reopen and said he thinks “we’re doing a great job in testing.” Polls indicated, however, Americans are not so sure with large majorities saying they are uncomfortable with returning to business as usual.

The COVID Tracking Project said nearly 7.8 million coronavirus tests had been performed in the U.S. as of Thursday, with 1.2 million of them positive and more than 67,000 deaths. The real-time Johns Hopkins tracker put the death toll early Thursday afternoon at more than 73,500.

The COVID Tracking Project said the U.S. is running about 248,000 tests per day. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard institute, told NPR the country needs to be conducting 900,000 tests per day. If social distancing restrictions are relaxed, the number may need to be even higher.

Federal guidelines say states should not consider reopening unless they see a two-week decline in cases and hospitalizations. None of the states that have announced plans to lift restrictions have seen that decline and most are seeing cases still on the upswing, Johns Hopkins senior scholar Caitlin Rivers told a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday.