The US tested the wrong people for coronavirus

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And you can tell because of a number called the test positivity rate.
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As the rate of new coronavirus cases in the US slows down, many states and cities there are encouraging businesses to open again, easing the lockdowns that have been in place since March. But public health experts warn that in many of those places, opening up is premature.
The reason is that throughout the US, as well as in many other countries, we still don’t really know how many people have the virus, or where they are. That’s dangerous because it means infected people who don’t feel sick are probably mingling with the rest of the population, which could enable further outbreaks. And the only way to really prevent that is by proactively testing people for covid-19 until the people who have it have been tracked down and isolated.
The US started testing its population for covid-19 very slowly, but it’s since ramped testing up, and by early May was performing over 200,000 tests a day. Unfortunately, there’s no magic number of tests that is “enough” to contain an outbreak. The important thing is to test the right people - and to evaluate whether that’s happening, public health officials recommend looking at a different number: The percentage of tests coming back positive. It’s called the test positivity rate.
Note: The headline on this piece has been updated.
Previous headline: What the US needs to do to open up safely
In a previous version of this video, the circles in the infographic at 5:50 and 6:20 were incorrectly sized. The error has been corrected.
Our World in Data is a reliable source for country-by-country covid-19 data:
Our World in Data also has weekly-rolling test-positivity rate data which gives a better snapshot of where countries are currently at:
We based our state test-positivity rates on this May 6 Harvard Global Health Institute and NPR analysis:
The Atlantic’s coverage of the importance of test-positivity rates:
An important disclaimer on potential inflation in testing numbers at the national and state level in the US:
Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out www.vox.com.
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Published on


May 23, 2020




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Comments 80
Vincent Tseng
10 negative to 1 positive is not 10% it’s 1/11 is about 0.0909, which is 9.09%
Graham Smith
Graham Smith Day ago
Is it population reduction? Has it been decided that the USA is overpopulated. Using Covid-19 to reduce the population.
gam mal
gam mal 2 days ago
Sherrie Abbott (RMES)
If people didn’t move to other places then places wouldn’t have the virus
Sherrie Abbott (RMES)
Bruh moment
Bal Nguyen
Bal Nguyen 2 days ago
Now, i understand how America struggle to contain the virus. Lack of supplies, lack of prepared. A good lesson for future then.
Beatriz B. Guasch
Wear mask.
akash jha
akash jha 2 days ago
How does this 10% or less theory works if a majority of people are infected? Then no matter how much you test the TPR will always be above 10%!
Xay 3 days ago
New Zealand :
PhilippineGamer Plays
Bill Gates: there will be a pandemic we didnt prepare for it we prepared for a war 2020:Covid 19 Me:who are you who are so wise in the ways of science
Lurky Boio
Lurky Boio 3 days ago
I mean, the US says they are first... first with most cases in the world by country -_-
Téanna Ang
Téanna Ang 4 days ago
What’s the worse thing you can say to someone in 2020? *stay positive*
Jared Moreno
Jared Moreno 4 days ago
My mother-in-law, who I live with, is sick but there are no tests in the area to confirm she has Covid-19. Her friend who she was in contact with, just died of Covid-19. My doctor told me that I can go back to work despite likely having the virus myself.
Tam Nguyen
Tam Nguyen 4 days ago
If you can't fit the problem in a Twitter tweet, Trump probably can't read it.
John Slyfield
John Slyfield 5 days ago
New York it’s amazing that in May it was over ten percent, now they are under one percent.
Alfie Solomon
Alfie Solomon 5 days ago
South Korea is also the size of like New Jersey
richard klegin
richard klegin 5 days ago
richard klegin
richard klegin 5 days ago
were heading to wave two , and the second is going to be worse
richard klegin
richard klegin 5 days ago
its the end of the world .
daniel jones
daniel jones 5 days ago
What is the use of a nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers, if the population of a country cannot follow simple rules of stopping a virus?
daniel jones
daniel jones 5 days ago
Is a country still a super power if it cannot follow simple rules to stop a virus?
daniel jones
daniel jones 5 days ago
Why is America behaving and being governed like a Developing Country?
rogue wade
rogue wade 5 days ago
South Korean population - 51 million American population - 300 million 😒
rogue wade
rogue wade 2 days ago
assassin icezaza even in a pandemic humans are using deaths in an attempt to restructure their hierarchy. Using large incomprehensible differences between billions of people to prove their people should be in power. 🤣
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
rogue wade What is the point you are trying make here? are you saying US are worse because of their unique situation?
rogue wade
rogue wade 2 days ago
assassin icezaza yes India, is very similar to America 😒
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
rogue wade Population doesn’t matter it is about how you control it, look at india, they have worse health care and billion of citizen yet they still do better.
Sumida Ryogoku
Sumida Ryogoku 5 days ago
But why US didnt conduct a mass testing in the first place? Here in Seoul ( South Korea ) by late January 2020 there were many, many testing facilities literally on every streets. All free.
Tathagat Chatterjee
India was shown in list of countries that tested correctly.. funny where it lies in list of those infected with virus..
Thomas Peiker
Thomas Peiker 6 days ago
Why America has the Problems, America has a lot of People, who are sick cause of the System, its Not in Canada, its not in Germany 😉
Ani G
Ani G 6 days ago
2:26 That's 9.09%
Calder Wishne
Calder Wishne 6 days ago
Republicans are the problem. Full stop.
orventro 6 days ago
2:25 Actually, that's 9% (1/11)
Larry Steve
Larry Steve 6 days ago
Is this a joke I am to Canadian to understand?
Oly B
Oly B 7 days ago
I usually think having things privatised by the government is bad but healthcare should be privatised and be free to everyone in the country, how many people in the US are suffering from medical bills. Most homeless in other countries is from drugs or mental health but in the Us it’s medical bills. Having it privatised will also help stopping corona cuz trump will try and stop the virus if it is affecting him and his economy nothing else will make him care!
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
Oly B Classic american will call it communism and not fair because it will raise the taxes. i think that kinda what happen with obamacare.
E R Gallentine
E R Gallentine 7 days ago
Great content, as always!
Petitio Principii
Why would one downvote a purely informative video is beyond me.
Ray Mak
Ray Mak 7 days ago
Less tests means less cases. According to the President.
Yuvraj Shah
Yuvraj Shah Day ago
That is the same as saying “If we cant see the problem then there is no problem”
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
Immaculate Organic Soaps Still meaning the same thing, more testing - more accurate results. less confirmed cases didn’t mean less actual cases.
Immaculate Organic Soaps
Didn't he say the more you test the more you are going to find positive results.
ReefNRod 7 days ago
This didn't age well for Arizona at the end
myown lilbubble
myown lilbubble 7 days ago
Man...the comment threads did not aged well for the USA.
Ironic Cookies
Ironic Cookies 7 days ago
movies: america saves the world irl: america dies
HighGround 4 days ago
That's Hollywood, brainwashing Americans to think they and their country are some heroes that they aren't irl
DarkEyez 8 days ago
Colorado is covering up their actual deaths as 6 ppl i know here died from the virus in one day and Colorado's death count did not rise at all that day, their covering up that they slowed testing down and even turned my mother away , and she turned out to test positive later she got the virus from me, we both almost died, haven't been tested since, forced back to work within 3 weeks of catching yhe virus, just because i have no way to get the test again
DarkEyez 8 days ago
There is not any place to get the test for over an hour on wheels and tons of workers here dont have a car lole myself, theres over 600 workers here and i know most of them after a survey we found the casino workers here were stripped of unemployment even high risk people and people over 70 years old, we were told being high risk is not enough and if we turn down our jobs who reopened a month ago we will loose all income
DarkEyez 8 days ago
In blackhawk and central city Colorado none of the casino workers forced to come back have been tested
Jason Yip
Jason Yip 8 days ago
Is there even contact tracing in the us? Here in Asia, all i hear is contact tracing but i have not heard this term used in the US.
Adam 7 days ago
My state of Oregon had a goal of least 600 contact tracers by mid-May; currently, our Positive test rate is 6.3% up from 1.7% at the end of May about when we started to reopen the state
jonny pepperston
jonny pepperston 9 days ago
I don't understand any of these videos
CodeKujo 9 days ago
"10 negative tests to 1 positive test" is 9%, not 10%. (10 negative + 1 positive = 11 tests. 1 positive / 11 tests = 9.09...%) So did that guy take "10%" and say it wrong, or has the video taken "10 to 1" and done a super common math-o. I think the thing to say which is both correct and wouldn't confuse people is to say "... that means less than 10%"
rtswift 9 days ago
its not that we didn't test the right people but didn't test enough
Gia Pacella
Gia Pacella 9 days ago
AlanNguyen2810 9 days ago
As a Vietnamese citizen, seeing all these videos on the internet trying to explain to the US how to contain the outbreak, when our country's been doing all that way ahead of them. Just sad.
nana nani
nana nani 10 hours ago
Ikr, congrats to Vietnam and everyone who lives there btw for successfully controlling the pandemic, I live in Canada and we border them, it's so scary yet very preventable on what happened to them and they want to open the border with us lol
Timothy Tate
Timothy Tate 9 days ago
My brother has had breathing issues for 3 months but since he has not history of respiratory issues they won’t test him...
MICHAEL JUNG 9 days ago
If someone has symptoms already, is the test necessary? Stopping the spread of the virus was the goal of the lock down. Shouldn't the test have the same goal?
Autumn 8 days ago
No, testing should be used to catch the asymptomatic, not those who have symptoms. That way we can catch those who have the virus, and slow the spread.
Hanbyul Kang
Hanbyul Kang 10 days ago
It is the reason why to wear a mask in order to protect myself and others.
rishav 10 days ago
A little more time and India will be on top. This will a proud moment for all patriots of the great nation. Feeling patriotic, might vote the guy who's literally ruining everything back to power again.
Carlos Lehder
Carlos Lehder 10 days ago
It so amazing to see that rapid drop in pneumonia deaths and flu deaths.... now they are putting COVID in its place to place fear in us.
George Saad
George Saad 8 days ago
First of all Covid causes Pneumonia .The flu season is gone since February. Wait till the fall when we will have both Covid and the flu together. The party will be a lot worse.
R L 10 days ago
If Trump gets voted for a 2nd term, y’all Americans are just straight up masochists 🤣
Stefanos Tai
Stefanos Tai 10 days ago
@vox "10 negative tests to 1 positive" is not a 10% positive rate. it is 1/11 = a 9.1% rate.
Mieny Hobi
Mieny Hobi 10 days ago
And there is me as a VietNamese going to school everyday without wearing a mask cuz we are so done with covid 19
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
Mieny Hobi Same here in thailand we don’t have a new case in country for a months now
케빈스Woozy Witanuzi
Australia didn't test alot of people. The government told us not to get tested unless we have sevre cases 😢
M. Sami
M. Sami 11 days ago
Why is there people wearing a bikini in the park?
assassin icezaza
assassin icezaza 2 days ago
M. Sami Welcome to USA, they are probably sunbathing.
randy tabron
randy tabron 12 days ago
If governors closed up and do what they need to do this wood not have happen so bad in America but they tryed to take rights away and treat the Americans bad but let other just do as they want
Thành Vinh Nguyên Tô
They should've done contact tracing. To backtrack and isolate
EGAN 12 days ago
Here in the us there is a plethora of anti vax and anti mask people. Along with entitled Karen’s who can’t handle an inconvenience
PhilippineGamer Plays
They just gonna kick the can down and drag dead weight
Chave na ignição - Victor Nezzi
if the US is poorly testing, imagine what they would say about brazil!!!!
Tomanna 13 days ago
MINOR CORRECTION: 2:26 that's not 10% it's actually closer to 9 as '10 to 1' implies 1 person out of every 11
Carina Raymond
Carina Raymond 14 days ago
Who disliked this? Knowledge is power. Stay ignorant, keep infecting people....
samanthajoy1 7 days ago
You know that exactly what I was think 🤦🏻‍♀️ how are you disliking a video to keep you informed 😒
Mohamed Abdullahi
Mohamed Abdullahi 12 days ago
Yeah right, infect people with misinformation
alfonso dacullo
alfonso dacullo 14 days ago
US is the poorest 1st world country
ThreeThings 14 days ago
Why does Vox sound so horribly pretentious and hubristic?
Irene Stolz
Irene Stolz 14 days ago
My concern is the testing process. Testers use the same gloves to test everyone. Infected and non infected putting their hands directly into the location of the virus!!!!!Wouldn’t that alone spread the virus??????
N Pak
N Pak 14 days ago
Here we are again.
loucious22 16 days ago
Testing costs money. Capitalism and a private healthcare insurance system cannot make a profit by doing mass testing. Thus, welcome to America.
Vaibhav Thalanki
Vaibhav Thalanki 16 days ago
Meanwhile Brazil : there won't be any cases if we don't test
Chun-Yu Chen
Chun-Yu Chen 16 days ago
Good for the country of Taiwan, great healthcare.
TV Streaming News
TV Streaming News 17 days ago
You should see Florida, Texas and Arizona now. Also, why can't the administration just follow the lead of Vox? Sorry to say but America is lost
Luneta 17 days ago
A month later... The expected happened and cases rose again
Autumn 17 days ago
DahDaniel Dude
DahDaniel Dude 18 days ago
Bro the testing in South Korea on how they test people reminds me the South Korean movie (The flu)
Suzanne Conway
Suzanne Conway 19 days ago
So right! The people in high places making all the decisions for everyone else's lives just don't even get it....it's just simple math and logic....shame on NJ Governor Murphy promising that anyone could be tested that wanted to be tested....not true if you're someone not showing symptoms!
S H 19 days ago
We have a virus we can not get rid of and it seems as though people can be reinfected.
Dhanraj Tolar
Dhanraj Tolar 19 days ago
Flattened the wrong curve..
Lavender Sky
Lavender Sky 20 days ago
I remember the Ebola outbreak.. Americans were flipping out and it wasn’t even in our country. They brought it to our country to save them.. Trump supporters think this is a scam by the Democrats
Aldi Ibrahim
Aldi Ibrahim 20 days ago
Meanwhile indonesia is purging itself...
Carlos Diaz
Carlos Diaz 20 days ago
Isn't this just common sense
MAE Gary
MAE Gary 20 days ago
How do you say the U.S. tested the people they tested the one's that matter to them.
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