'Grave concerns': COVID-19's surge in Sunbelt states shows the virus, not testing, to blame

President Donald Trump blames the increasing number of COVID-19 cases for increased testing and suggests that the number of cases would decrease with fewer tests. However, infectious disease and public health experts contest this claim, saying that the rise in coronavirus cases in the Sunbelt states reflects a potentially dangerous new phase of the pandemic.
Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and South Carolina reported record new daily coronavirus cases this week as the number of cases continues to grow in more than half of the U.S. states.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state is facing a massive outbreak. Another 5,000 cases were reported on Wednesday. California Governor Gavin Newsom reported Wednesday that 7,149 tested positive, a record for the country's largest state. Both countries outperformed the entire European Union this week in terms of the average number of daily cases.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will quarantine travelers from nine states with high infection rates for 14 days. It is a reversal of the early pandemic weeks when Florida, Texas, South Carolina imposed a similar quarantine on travelers from New York and the two neighboring countries.
This week, Connecticut and Arizona conducted 1.7 tests per 1,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University test tracker. While Connecticut was 1.3% positive, Arizona had 22.1% positive for COVID-19.
Arizona hospitals reported the highest number of beds and ventilators used for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients on Tuesday.
The World Health Organization recommends adequate testing for 5% or fewer people who are testing to have the virus, but these conditions exceed this value. If the positive test rate is higher, it could mean that states only test the sickest and miss those who show no symptoms but can still spread the virus.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said that the number of cases in countries with such high positive test rates "is not due to an increase in tests," but that an indicator of cases is spreading.
States that effectively test and track contacts of infected people have a much better chance of controlling COVID-19 even as the number of cases increases, Adalja said.
Many people no longer stay at home and avoid large group meetings. Some gather in bars, churches and political gatherings without masks or social distance. COVID-19 has performed well in these communities.
The Houston driver temporarily lost his liquor license because he failed to meet capacity limits in June 2020.
Stephen Kissler, postdoc at Harvard T.H. According to the Chan School of Public Health, tests are vital to slow down the virus that causes COVID-19.
"Based on tests, we can detect these increases in different locations in cases and are likely to intercept them earlier than usual," said Kissler.
He said tests will allow public health workers to track infected contacts and determine where there are major outbreaks.
"This allows us to escape some of the negative economic consequences," said Kissler. "I think that's one of the most frustrating things about some of the suggestions that testing should be reduced. Testing is what frees us from the most economically debilitating solution. If we test more, we will have a better sense of where the virus is So we can respond in a much more targeted way, so we can avoid having to do the massive social shutdowns that are so damaging to the economy. "
Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health and State Health Department, said cases that have been exposed through intensified testing "are only evidence that COVID-19 is present in our communities."
She said the increase in cases and hospitalizations is evidence that people should stay at home or wear masks and stay away from others "because this helps us protect each other. Our ability to move forward as a state depends on it . "
Fears in Phoenix
In Arizona, cases have increased 1,000 or more daily in the past two weeks and 88% of the beds in the intensive care unit in the hospital were filled with patients on Tuesday.
"We could be the hottest hot spot in the world," said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the State Department of Health Services. "A very large part of why we are where we are is due to the political decisions that were made in mid-May."
Humble said the high positive test rate "means you miss so many because test kits are so scarce" and access to tests is uneven.
Alberta Cook (right) receives a COVID-19 test at Native Health in Phoenix, Arizona on May 16, 2020.
Hospitals that operate their own laboratories or have access to commercial test laboratories can be tested. Some general practitioners and community health centers that serve low-income or rural communities may not receive enough test kits.
A test flash last Saturday in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Phoenix attracted so many people that people waited up to 13 hours for the test.
Vulnerable rural communities
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and doctor for infectious diseases, said the recent rise in warm weather conditions has revived fears that the course of the disease, which was flattened by aggressive social distancing in March and April, is gradually resuming.
Contrary to the initial fatal wave, which focuses on large cities like New York and Chicago, the recent cases are moving from metropolitan areas to smaller towns and rural communities.
"There were many of us who cautiously hoped that COVID-19 would not be transmitted as quickly in the warm, humid summer months, much like influenza," said Schaffner. "It doesn't seem to be disabled at all. It is steaming ahead and we literally have serious concerns about a second wave that could be very effective."
He said the virus has reached smaller communities where social distancing and wearing masks are socially less acceptable. "It could be much bigger than anything we've seen before."
More about COVID-19:
The symptoms can last for a month
Is it safe to fly?
What you need to know about the US as a new epicenter
Featuring: Mike Stucka
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID-19 tests cannot be held responsible for the increase in coronavirus in Sunbelt

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