Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Home safe for the holidays

We’re calling on state governors to ramp up testing so that we can safely gather with family for the holidays.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is still raging across much of the country. If we want to see our families for the holidays, attend regular church services, or eat out at a restaurant without fear of contracting or spreading the virus, we need to dramatically increase the amount of testing we are doing.

The scorecard below, updated bi-weekly, displays a grade for current testing capacity as compared to the testing capacity and resources public health experts say we must have to suppress the virus and get it under control in .

TESTING GRADE % TOWARD GOAL CHANGE SINCE LAST UPDATE

is currently administering tests per 100,000 people (7 day moving avg.) as compared to a goal of administering tests per 100,000 people (7 day moving avg.). Currently only a handful of states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont — are close to or exceeding their state's testing goals.

Source: testing model from the Brown School of Public Health and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Why is testing so important?

The bottom line is that, if we can test widely enough and get the results back quickly enough, we can catch outbreaks before they explode. With the right testing plan in place, people could get tested before visiting families, or attending large gatherings, such as church services, or engaging in any activity that might put people’s health at risk. And if they believe they have been exposed, they could find out within 48 hours whether they have contracted the virus and isolate themselves so as to not infect others. Once we achieve that level of testing, and if we establish a system to quickly trace contacts of positive cases and follow public health protocols like mask wearing, then we can reopen our economy safely and get some pieces of our lives back.

The White House outbreak shows that testing is not a silver bullet. Even when testing is more readily available, we still need to practice social distancing, wear masks, and avoid crowds, especially indoors.

Drive-through testing location in Pennsylvania
Photo by Senior Airman Wilfredo Acosta
We can’t afford to wait

More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19, and we’ll lose thousands more without swift action. Many states' current testing plans and resources are inadequate to contain the spread of the virus. State governors need to adopt plans to achieve the testing capacity that public health experts say we must have to suppress the virus and get it under control.

It's up to state governors

The federal government has committed to send 100 million rapid tests to states. That’s good, but it’s still nowhere near what’s needed. It is time for bold, coordinated and immediate action. In the absence of federal action, we need state governors to step up and do what it takes to protect our health. That’s why we’re urging them to commit to hitting the amount of testing that health experts say we need to get the virus under control and prevent outbreaks. Nationally, that means doing eight times as much testing as we’re doing now. Testing targets will vary state by state, but every governor should also commit to ensuring a 48 hour turnaround of all COVID-19 tests.

Massachusetts has hit its testing target. The state is providing widespread access to testing sites, with information on testing locations easy to find online. A handful of other states are already close to doing enough testing to suppress the virus and protect public health, including Connecticut and Maine. Connecticut has the ability to return test results within 24 to 48 hours. It has also made information on testing locations easy to find online, launched an ad campaign to educate people about how and when to get tested, and dispatched mobile testing facilities to high risk areas.

Testing at Kadena Air Base, Japan
Senior Airman Rhett Isbell and Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster, 18th Wing Public Affairs
How we can make it happen

Governors can take actions now that will help fix many of the problems that have prevented states from being able to tackle this crisis in the face of federal inaction. Our recommendations include:

  • Increasing the state’s test purchasing power by joining a consortium with other governors, similar to the one started by Gov. Larry Hogan in Maryland and the National Governors Association.
  • Borrowing best practices from other states, specifically increasing testing locations and variety of options like drive-through testing sites, walk-up sites, and mobile testing units.
  • Launching a state-sponsored educational campaign so that people know when they should get a test, where they can get tested, and how.
  • Breaking down barriers to testing, ensuring that anyone who needs a test can get a test, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.
  • Targeting testing efforts in high-risk settings, such as nursing homes, meat packing facilities, schools and prisons.
  • Mobilizing a local network of labs to increase testing capacity, as New York did.
What it all means for you

If we meet our testing targets and practice basic public health measures, you could be able to see your family over the holidays, find solace in your place of worship, break bread with your neighbors, and have a renewed sense of confidence in our state’s leaders, knowing that we are doing what it takes to keep each other safe.

Find out what this means for your holiday plans.

Get involved
JOIN THE CALL TO PUT PUBLIC HEALTH FIRST

To ensure state governors put public health first, it is critical that they hear from as many of you as possible. Here’s how you can help: Sign our petition calling on your governor to commit to hitting the testing levels we need to squash the virus.