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America's CDC and 11 States Erroneously Conflated Two Kinds of Coronavirus Tests


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America's Center for Disease Control "is conflating viral and antibody tests..." writes the Atlantic, "distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic." Thelasko shared their report: We've learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government's disease-fighting agency is overstating the country's ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19... The widespread use of the practice means that it remains difficult to know exactly how much the country's ability to test people who are actively sick with COVID-19 has improved. "You've got to be kidding me," Ashish Jha, the K. T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told us when we described what the CDC was doing. "How could the CDC make that mistake? This is a mess...." By combining the two types of results, the CDC has made them both "uninterpretable," he said... [T]he portion of tests coming back positive has plummeted, from a seven-day average of 10 percent at the month's start to 6 percent on Wednesday. "The numbers have outstripped what I was expecting," Jha said. "My sense is people are really surprised that we've moved as much as we have in such a short time period. I think we all expected a move and we all expected improvement, but the pace and size of that improvement has been a big surprise." The intermingling of viral and antibody tests suggests that some of those gains might be illusory. "The CDC is not alone in its errors," notes a Reason article shared by schwit1. "Several states have been blending their test results as well, rendering it difficult to determine the local impact of the virus." But the CDC's role as the officially designated first line of defense makes the agency's failure far more significant. Without clear, reliable, and accurate reporting from the CDC, it becomes nearly impossible to take stock of the pandemic's damage. The virus has upended American life in ways that make it unusually difficult to predict the future. But thanks to the CDC, we have a problem that is even worse: No only do we not know what is going to happen, but we don't know what is happening.

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