A tally of the number of people tested for the novel coronavirus disappeared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on Monday. The change was first reported by journalist Judd Legum on Twitter. The disappearance of the numbers comes less than a week after the first cases of the virus with unknown origins were reported in the US. In the past few days, six deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been confirmed in Washington state.
Last week was the first week that six public health labs were supposed to be able to perform their own tests for the virus instead of waiting for results from CDC headquarters in Atlanta. On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the ability of local labs and hospitals to perform their own tests. With the newly expanded capacity, the number of people tested is expected to rise rapidly this week, as is the number of confirmed cases in the US.
Previously, the CDC faced backlash from local and state governments that were frustrated by flaws and delays in the CDC-developed test. Many wanted to develop and perform tests on their populations, without having to send samples down to Atlanta. The limited availability of testing has been frustrating to public health experts because it means that getting an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading in the country is extremely difficult. Without a centralized number of tests on the CDC’s website, it’s also difficult for the public to tell how much testing has expanded or how much it will expand in the future.
The CDC’s website still lists the total number of confirmed cases in the US and the total number of “presumed positive” cases in the US. The latter are cases that have tested positive for the new coronavirus at public health labs across the country, but that haven’t been confirmed by the CDC. The CDC’s website now says “States are reporting presumptive positive cases independently; their case counts are the most up-to-date.”
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Globally, there have been more than 89,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,048 deaths, with the vast majority located in China, where the virus emerged in December. More than 45,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered from the respiratory disease. The illness is typically mild, featuring a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. People with underlying conditions and those who are elderly are considered to be at greatest risk of the disease.