Why COVID-19 Testing is Important
Why testing is important.
On March 31, 2020, I made my first graph and report on the COVID-19 numbers in Minnesota. I did this because on March 15 and 16 the percentage increase was around 50% and if that continued we would be at a million cases in 3 weeks. This was not a good outcome. If this virus was as deadly as we thought (morbidity rate of 3.7%) we would have 37,000 dead Minnesotans.
As the rate of increase quickly receded, I was unable to reconcile the projections the Government was making regarding the growth of the virus. The numbers we were seeing and the trends we were watching didn’t match the explosive and exponential growth the Governor’s office was predicting. As we have seen over the past couple weeks Minnesota’s case load has been growing but at a very steady and linear manner. Our ability to manage an exponential growth in cases has been materialized and we are well prepared - 2633 icu beds, only 103 used for COVID-19 patients.
Why haven’t we seen more cases? I think it’s fair to say if you have any symptoms you get tested for COVID-19. We have tested 41,675 Minnesotans likely to have contracted the virus. Of that number only 1,912 (4.5%) have tested positive. We aren’t testing non-symptomatic patients but we are testing those most likely to have the virus. Of that subgroup, the number of cases remains very low
Why aren’t there more cases in Minnesota? We have one of the lowest infection rates per capita in the US.
Current trends point to a May 4th total of 211 icu beds, 358 hospitalized, and 1287 active cases. (see graph)
There are 2 possiblities for this outcome.
1. The virus isn’t as virulent as we expected. 2. Minnesota’s Shelter at Home was implemented ahead of widespread disemination and most of us haven’t been exposed to the virus yet. The worst is yet to come.
We won’t know which of the above possibilities or the spectrum between the two is true until we can test more of the general, non-symptomatic public for antibodies for COVID-19. If number 1 is the case, we have largely been exposed to the virus but 99% of us show no or little symptoms we should reopen the economy with great urgency.
If number 2 is proven to be true we can still reopen slowly but need to watch the numbers. If the active cases number starts to exponentially grow we would need to reverse course and ease off the rate of reopening.
We need a process for businesses to appeal the ruling and reopen if they can prove they can practice appropriate social distancing. We need this today.
That’s why these numbers and trends are so important. We need to know where we are and more importantly where we are headed.
This is why testing is so important. Which situation are we in?
Once the antibody test from Mayo and others has been administered in any sizable manner, we will know more and we will know how to responsibly proceed. Making demands of the Governor before that time seems presumptive.