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Most US states behind testing levels needed to ease lockdowns: study

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Washington (AFP)

Despite recent progress, the majority of US states don't yet have sufficient COVID-19 testing capacity to consider relaxing stay-at-home orders after May 1, according to an analysis by Harvard researchers and the health news site Stat.

It directly contradicts the position held by President Donald Trump that the US has caught up after months of fumbling and is now "doing a great job in testing."

In reality, just 19 states are ready, according to the analysis, including Alaska and Montana which have been relatively spared from the pandemic.

On the other hand, 31 states and the District of Columbia are well behind. The worst hit, New York, will need to perform between 130,000 to 155,000 tests every day, compared to the average of 20,000 per day around mid April.

Georgia, which began to re-open some non-essential businesses this weekend, has a testing deficit of about 5,000 tests per day.

The Harvard team , which said it based its recommendations on realistic goals, estimated that the US needs to be able to perform at least 500,000 tests a day to safely reopen. The group worked off a Los Alamos National Laboratory model that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consults.

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said the news wasn't all bad because the number of tests has been steadily increasing. 300,000 were reported on Saturday and 256,000 on Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

"Testing was stuck forever. Now finally starting to break loose! 4 day-trend gives me hope we may be making progress. We still have a long way to go," he wrote on Twitter.

"If we can ramp up testing a bunch more, we can more safely ease distancing restrictions."

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