This surge in testing capacity was slow in coming. In the 10 days after February 26—when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the coronavirus was being transmitted through community spread in the United States—federal and state labs tested 2,806 Americans. Another week elapsed before the country had tested 20,000 people. In the few days since, the country has expanded its testing capacity to cover at least that many people every day.
Yet the national numbers are still distorted by massive testing operations in just a few states. New York, California, and Washington have conducted nearly half of all tests nationwide, even though those states contain, combined, about a fifth of the country’s population. Florida and Texas—each home to more than 20 million people—have tested only about 3,000 patients each.
Some state public-health departments aren’t reporting as much information as others. We’ve assigned every state a letter grade in the chart above to help readers understand how thorough each one is in its reporting. This grade is not assessing the quality of a state’s testing, but rather the transparency and regularity of its reporting.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C., regularly report their number of positive cases. Some states, such as Connecticut, disclose little additional information, so we’ve assigned them a grade of D. But others, such as Florida, publish not only their positive cases but also their negative cases and the results of tests conducted by private labs. Those states get an A grade. Having this full suite of figures at the state level allows for a far greater understanding of the size of both the outbreak and the response.
In the chart above, each state’s number of positive cases includes people who are currently ill with the disease, people who have recovered from it, and people who have died. We have also broken out the number of deaths in its own column.
Some states have used strict criteria to determine who can and cannot be tested for the coronavirus. While we haven’t factored these into a state’s grade, we think these rules—while perhaps necessary, given the shortage of tests available from the CDC—have led states to substantially undercount how many people had been infected in their communities, especially during the last week of February and the first two weeks of March. At least 18 states have enforced particularly stringent rules in some counties or hospitals: California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. (Some of those states, such as Hawaii and Maryland, have since loosened their criteria.)