The Atlantic

The Black Hole in America’s COVID-19 Data

States know very little about the results from rapid coronavirus tests.
Source: Getty / The Atlantic

For months, public-health experts have been calling for a new line of defense against COVID-19. Antigen testing, also known as rapid testing, is cheaper and faster than standard testing, and it can happen at points of care—long-term-care facilities, prisons, schools, and doctors’ offices. The technology has been around since the spring, but the real investment came in August, when the federal government ordered 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW tests, which show the result on a card in just 15 minutes. At the time, the federal government hoped to use the tests to pinpoint outbreaks in long-term-care facilities and protect the elderly, while states looked to deploy them in schools and universities to get students back in the classroom. Faster, more frequent testing in these places could help mitigate the pandemic’s worst effects.

But the process ofand the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leaving gaps in our knowledge of the pandemic. In some cases, the tests are not getting used at all. Almost a year into this crisis, the U.S. does not have a clear picture of how many people are being tested for COVID-19.

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