DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As government leaders tout efforts to increase coronavirus testing as essential to the nation’s recovery, the exact number of tests being performed nationwide, or locally in North Texas, remains unknown.
Some evidence shows the number of positive tests may be falling, complicating analysis of whether COVID-19 cases are actually dropping or if more are simply going undetected.
“This is one of those situations where you realize like… how can we not have everybody reporting all the testing they’re doing?” asked Harry Glorikian, a health data expert and author of Moneyball Medicine.
Glorikian says there’s no one central group collecting the numbers. “Trying to get a clear picture or clearer picture of what’s going on feels like patchwork at best.”
At a public drive-thru test site outside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, patients trickle in. The location has the ability to test 500 people a day. Some days it does less than a quarter of that, but it’s not certain why turnout has decreased after an initial surge.
“I have received images of a lot of these testing sites being vacant or poorly attended,” said Governor Greg Abbott during a Tuesday press conference, speculating that a lack of public awareness could be at fault.
The American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents private labs doing the majority of COVID-19 tests, reports the number performed nationwide peaked the first weekend of April. This past weekend, by comparison, saw those private labs test 27% fewer specimens.
Dallas County data shows the share of cases being confirmed by public test sites is growing.
There’s currently no way to find out, though, how many tests overall have been completed for COVID-19 or how that number is fluctuating over time.
“I was not happy with the information that was not available about testing,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
The mayor’s executive orders under the current disaster declaration have focused on gathering data. His first mandated labs provide daily reports on how many tests they’ve performed and whether the results were positive or negative for the coronavirus.
Many of the labs processing tests on Dallas residents, though, are located outside city limits and outside the bounds of the mayor’s authority.
A database of test results provided by the mayor’s office showed large gaps in the data assembled.
“It’s not perfect but it gives us a better idea than anyone else of how much testing is going on in the city,” said Mayor Johnson when asked if he was satisfied with the response he’d received.