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US COVID-19 testing an ‘abject failure’: Harvard health expert

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  • The director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute said US coronavirus testing has been an “abject failure.”
  • Dr. Ashish Jha said: “I am stunned that as a nation, six months into this pandemic, we still can’t figure out how to deliver testing to the American people when they need it.”
  • US testing rates have risen, though per capita it is still behind Russia, Australia, Spain, and Iceland.
  • People have also reported having to wait hours to get tested, and test results have been delayed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US efforts to test people for the coronavirus testing have been an “abject failure,” a Harvard global health expert said.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, said “I am stunned that as a nation, six months into this pandemic, we still can’t figure out how to deliver testing to the American people when they need it,” The Associated Press reported.

“It is an abject failure of leadership and shows that the federal government has not prioritized testing in a way that will allow us to get through this pandemic,” he said.

The US has increased its testing rate, and is now testing an average of 162 of every 100,000 people in the country a day. That figure is higher than many countries, like France and Italy.

But it is behind others, like Russia, Australia, Spain, and Iceland.

New testing sites have opened across the US, but people have had to wait hours to get tested, and many results have been slow to arrive.

coronavirus test queue

Drivers queue for a coronavirus test at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on July 7, 2020.

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images


The US currently has more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country in the world. More than three million cases have been recorded, and more than 132,000 people have died.

Coronavirus cases are now rapidly rising, and the record for daily new infections has been broken four out of past seven days.

The current record is 61,848 cases recorded on July 8.  

President Donald Trump claimed in May that too much coronavirus testing makes the US “look bad,” and noted not long after that there would be very few known cases if the US stopped testing.

Experts have rejected his claims that the increased cases are solely down to increased testing.

As Business Insider’s Aria Bendix and Holly Secon reported, the virus has been spreading rapidly in many states, most notably Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, where a high rate of tests are coming back positive.

Trump has also highlighted that the US has carried out more tests than any other country, though experts say that the tests a country does as a proportion of its population is more important than the total figure.

trump testing US coronavirus

President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House in May 2020.

Drew Angerer/Getty


Health experts say that testing is a vital tool for controlling coronavirus outbreaks, especially as lockdowns are eased. Test results give authorities a picture of how many people are infected in an area, and let infected people know that they need to isolate themselves.

Some countries which managed to get their outbreaks under control are using mass testing to watch for a second wave of the virus, and using the data to inform localized lockdowns.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the US is still battling its first wave of the virus.

He said at the end of June that more testing was needed to counter the “disturbing surge” in cases.

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