Pennsylvania’s rate of covid-19 testing among lowest in country, data show

The percentage of Pennsylvanians being tested for covid-19 is among the lowest rates in the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The Commonwealth came in 47th out of the nation’s 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with 8,244 tests performed per 100,000 people, the university’s data show. Pennsylvania is home to about
12.8 million people.

Only Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii and Puerto Rico had lower rates. New York had the highest, performing 26,768 tests per 100,000 people, according to the data.

“We know that many people who needed to be tested were not getting tested, that there’s been issues with turnaround times that discourage people from getting tested,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based senior scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security.

“I think the general point is accurate, though. We didn’t do enough testing in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Adalja couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for the low testing number, but said it could have to do with Pennsylvanians’ ability, or inability, to get tested. Access to testing is easier in metro areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that have major hospital systems and more testing sites, but that’s not the case in smaller, more rural communities.

“I don’t have a good explanation for why,” Adalja said. “We know that in general we’re not testing as much as we should be and hadn’t been early on in the pandemic, but even now I think that testing is still not to a level that’s required to control the pandemic, or control the outbreak in this state.”

Nate Wardle, a spokesman with the state Department of Health, said covid-19 testing has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic.

When the outbreak first began, the state didn’t have the capacity to be able to test every individual who had covid-19, Wardle said. For that reason, many people who were sick but didn’t need emergency care were asked to remain at home and not get tested.

“This testing capacity is now much improved, largely due to the assistance in receiving test supplies from the federal government,” Wardle said. “Now, if you need to be tested, there is testing available.”

As of a week ago, roughly 1.2 million covid-19 tests had been administered in the state, Wardle said. Based on the current population, that means close to 9,540 tests have been administered per 100,000 people.

Those figures would move Pennsylvania up seven spots on Johns Hopkins’ list, Wardle said.

Madasyn Lee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, or via Twitter .

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Published at Thu, 23 Jul 2020 22:37:44 +0000

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