Abbott says only a few hundred Texans have been tested for coronavirus so far

by | Mar 16, 2020 | Coronavirus, Policy

During a midday update on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said more than 200 Texans have been tested for coronavirus by state and federal public health labs.

The governor said results for 300 more tests are currently on their way. 

The news comes days after Abbott declared a statewide public health disaster over the coronavirus outbreak and more than two weeks after the state’s first Covid-19 case was discovered.

The slow rollout of testing in Texas mirrors the pandemic response on a national level, where U.S. testing rates have lagged far behind where they need to be to properly understand and react to the pandemic.

An estimated 20,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the U.S. as of Friday. By comparison, in South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of the country’s first confirmed case. Likewise, countries like the Netherlands, Israel, and Taiwan with smaller populations than Texas’ 28 million have been testing thousands of people for weeks.

The sluggish testing rollout in Texas presents an especially grave problem because it understates how far along the state is in its so-called “coronavirus curve,” or the rise and fall in the number of new cases. Put differently, it means that just because there are few confirmed cases in Texas (57), it doesn’t mean there are few people walking around with coronavirus. For example, Ohio’s public health director said that despite only having five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, they estimated more than 100,000 Ohioans have the virus. 

In Texas, drive-thru testing has already begun in San Antonio and Dallas, with more major cities receiving locations in the coming weeks. 

“You’re going to see an exponential increase in the number of people testing positive on a daily basis, ” Abbott said Monday.

Photo: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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