Harvard: Tennessee coronavirus testing levels among the best in US

Tennessee is one of the few states in the nation conducting enough coronavirus testing for its population and current outbreak, although more testing would still be better, according to new analysis published by the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The analysis states Tennessee is conducting a daily average of 8,365 tests, which is more than double the 3,266 tests recommended by Harvard researchers.

Tennessee is one of only seven states that met or exceeded Harvard's testing recommendations, and of those seven states it is doing the most testing by far. Researchers described these testing benchmarks as “as a floor, not a goal.”

“For states that look like they’re meeting their goals, I wouldn’t take that as too much comfort, because the number of cases will start going up,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. 'This is not the goal you want to hit and then say, ‘OK, good, we’re done.’ This is the goal you want to hit and say, ‘OK, now we can start.'” The coronavirus has spread across nearly all of Tennessee, but the outbreak remains mild when compared to other states. As of Saturday morning, Tennessee had recorded 14,441 cases of coronavirus and 241 deaths. Nearly half of Tennessee coronavirus cases have already recovered from the virus.

More than 243,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted statewide. State officials have made free drive thru testing available to people who have no symptoms of the virus, which some other states have not yet done. Gov. Bill Lee has routinely touted Tennessee as a coronavirus testing leader. The new Harvard analysis, published Thursday in partnership with NPR, appears to back him up.

Of the seven states that met Harvard’s testing benchmarks, Tennessee has accomplished the most. Most of the other states are large and sparsely populated, like Montana and Utah, where the physical distance between residents serves as a natural barrier to the virus. As a result, Harvard recommends these states conduct hundreds of tests a day, compared to thousands a day in Tennessee.

Nationwide, Harvard predicts the United States will need to conduct about 900,000 coronavirus tests per day by May 15. According to the analysis, the nation is currently conducting only 250,000 tests daily.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brett Kelman

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

Published May 14, 2020