Counties doing the most and least COVID-19 testing in every state
The United States is in the midst of a COVID-19 surge, with a record-setting 85,000 new cases on Oct. 23 after weeks of steadily rising infections. The Midwest, west, and rural areas are experiencing growing outbreaks, and cold temperatures could help the virus flourish even more. This “third wave” of coronavirus outbreaks is prompting the public and policymakers to assess the available data to inform how to combat outbreaks, but breakdowns in data that appear to be straightforward can belie the more-complex realities of infection, transmission, testing, and survival. Test positivity rates, for example, show a simple snapshot of which areas are experiencing climbing rates of infection. But as scientists point out, looking solely to the test positivity rates only reveals one part of the picture: that of the group of people who got tested—not of the whole population.
That’s why it’s so important to track testing rates in addition to positivity rates. As John Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center notes, the testing rate, in addition to the number of new daily cases and the positivity rate, are the best metrics “for understanding the reach and severity of COVID-19 in a given area.” With increasing testing comes a more-complete understanding of the coronavirus’ spread and impact across the U.S., down to the county level. And this more complete understanding is what policymakers need when considering imposing new lockdowns, lifting restrictions, and instituting rules around distancing and mask wearing.
In an effort to contribute to that fuller picture, Stacker compiled the counties doing the most and least COVID-19 testing in every state. Every Monday, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services updates a dataset on COVID-19 testing at the county level. The data include total tests conducted in every U.S. county, tests per 100,000 population, and test positivity rates, all for a 14-day period. The CMS dataset only includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, not antigen or antibody tests, and is compiled from state public health departments and the Department of Health and Human Services. In this story, counties were ranked based on testing rates adjusted by county populations. Test positivity rates are not calculated for counties that have conducted fewer than 20 tests in the past 14 days. State values are calculated by summing total tests from all counties in the state and by averaging county positivity rates in the state. This story includes the most recent data, for Oct. 8 through Oct. 21 (published on Oct. 26).
Read on to see which counties in your state are doing the most—and the least—testing to combat COVID-19.
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