What’s up with testing in Texas?

The COVID Tracking Project published a blog post this week in which three of our resident Texas experts, Conor Kelly, Judith Oppenheim, and Pat Kelly, describe a dramatic shift in Texas testing numbers which has taken place in the past two weeks.

On August 2, the number of tests reported by Texas’s Department of State Health Services (DSHS) began to plummet. The state went from a reported 60,000 tests per day at the end of July to about half that number by August 12. Conor, Judith, and Pat explain that this overall drop coincides with a drop in tests that DSHS classifies as “pending assessment,” meaning they have not yet been assigned to a county. Total tests reported by individual Texas counties, meanwhile, have continued to rise.

Although about 85,000 “pending assessment” tests were logged on August 13 to fill Texas’s backlog, this number does not fully add up to the total drop. For full transparency in Texas, DSHS needs to explain exactly how they define “pending assessment” tests, how tests are reclassified from “pending” to being logged in a particular county, and, if tests are ever removed from the “pending” category without reclassification, when and why that happens. As I mentioned in last week’s issue, DSHS has been known to remove Texans with positive antigen tests from their case count; they could be similarly removing antigen and antibody tests reported by counties from their test count.

If you live in Texas, have friends and family there, or are simply interested in data issues in one of the country’s biggest outbreak states, I highly recommend giving the full post a read. For more Texas test reporting, check out recent articles from Politico and the Texas Tribune.

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