To understand a lot about the current state of COVID-19, statistics, numbers and various other forms of data are crucial. Such statistics are imperative in grasping the full scope of how testing for the virus has fared (and is faring) in countries across the globe and why things have come to be how they are.
Before delving too deep into data, peculiars about the test should be explained. Firstly, the most common tests for COVID-19, called PCR tests, are conducted by taking a swap from a patient’s nose and throat and subsequently checking the samples for genetic traces of the virus. However, as simple as this procedure seems, it is rather prone to being victim of producing false-negative results: when a person being tested is found to be absent of the virus, but upon later retesting, a sample from that same person is tested positive.
The most glaring reason for this is if an infected person is in an early stage of the disease, and the virus hasn’t spread wide enough to be detected through a test. However, mishandling of samples (during which the virus is very acute to dying within a short period of time), simply not obtaining enough sample to test, or a mere lack of respiratory systems could also be perpetrators of such false-negative results.
That said, disregarding the frantic market for obtaining and distributing these antigen tests, in this time of disturbance, Germany stands out as a country who has stood massively unshaken relative to countries such as China or the United States. The numbers are impressive: by Wednesday, the 25th, confirmed cases in Germany had passed 71,000, while the death toll at the same time was 775.
Why do these numbers pale in comparison to those of European counterparts Italy and Spain, for example? It seems like Germany had begun preparations for dealing with this virus as early as the end of 2019, when the first widespread of unusual respiratory disease in China had begun. Apparently, a test had been developed by “mid-January” and was ready to be employed by the time the country reported its first case.
By the middle of March, it’s estimated that about 167,000 tests had been administered throughout the nation. Population? About 83 million. A little head math counts about .2% of total population tested. At about the same time, 104,000 tests were estimated to have been administered throughout the United States. Population? A little under 330 million. After head math, those tests would account for .03% of the total population—about ten times small, relatively, than the number administered in Germany.
Why did Germany take such preemptive stance against COVID-19 whilst the U.S. didn’t? Maybe, being closer to China physically would have put them in a position of higher vulnerability compared to the United States, and so they acted accordingly. Yet still, why has the U.S.’s response been so mediocre in the initial stages? In the breakout month of February for the virus, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that “government labs processed 352 COVID-19 tests—an average of only a dozen per day.” Flawed test kits and lack of preparedness seemed to be root causes for the slow progress made in testing. However, how well will America sustain progress amidst this pandemic remains somewhat shrouded under mists of uncertainty.
Darlon Riviere – Staff Writer