Daily Video

July 16, 2020

Explainer: Why record COVID-19 testing is not enough


Directions: Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript, click here.

Summary: Public health officials have emphasized the importance of wide scale testing as part of a strategy to control the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite record numbers of tests, experts say testing in the U.S. is short of where it needs to be to help control the outbreak. 

  • The U.S. ran 15 million tests in June. While this was the largest number of tests conducted over a month’s time since the outbreak began, demand still outpaces supplies needed to provide everyone seeking a test with timely results, according to Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
  • Testing is organized on the state level, which can cause inefficiencies such as states competing with each for needed supplies. 
  • President Donald Trump claimed throughout June and early July that the reason there are more reported cases is because there has been more testing; however, the percentage of positive tests compared to the amount of total tests has risen, indicating that more people are getting sick. Hospitalizations and deaths also began to rise at the end of June and beginning of July, suggesting a worsening outbreak in many parts of the country.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Essential question: What conditions are needed for testing to help mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S?
  2. Do you know how many people have tested positive for the coronavirus? Is the rate higher or lower in your community than in the spring?
  3. Use this live tool from the New York Times that keeps track of positive cases and deaths. How can you use this information to determine where actual cases are increasing and where higher numbers may be a result of more testing?
  4. What role does effective testing play in reopening schools? Would you feel comfortable going back to school if there were not enough tests? If time permits, watch this NewsHour clip about schools reopening during the latest surge. 
  5. Media Literacy: How do you read and understand your state’s data on coronavirus numbers? What data should reporters use when communicating the risk of coronavirus in your state? If you need help, read this article in the Atlantic on how to interpret the numbers.

Extension activities: Discuss with your students ways that other countries are dealing with the pandemic. First, have students watch this NewsHour episode, What the U.S. coronavirus response says about American exceptionalism. Then, have students research the coronavirus response measures put into place by one country other than the U.S. Then, answer the following questions:

  • Do you think the response of the country you researched offers a positive or negative example for the United States?
  • What coronavirus precautions and guidelines might work well in the United States that aren’t currently or commonly employed in this country?
  • What extra guidelines might be ineffective or impractical because of legal, cultural or economic reasons in the United States?

Today’s Daily News Story was written by EXTRA’s intern Ramses Rubio, a junior at Amherst College.

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