Harvard Global Health Institute Keeps Changing Coronavirus Testing Expectations

Ashish Jha Harvard Global Health
Harvard Global Health

Harvard Global Health Institute director Dr. Ashish Jha keeps changing the number of tests he thinks the United States needs to do per week to battle the coronavirus pandemic, the latest example of a public health professional moving the goalposts as the disease recedes nationwide.

In early April, Jha said the expectation to reopen America safely should be around 500,000 coronavirus tests conducted nationwide per day.

“Testing on this scale—about 500,000 people daily—is well within our capacity, and as the disease burden comes down, so will the number of tests we need to perform,” Jha wrote in the April 8 piece in Forbes.

A White House official told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the United States is currently testing around that, fairly close to 500,000 tests per day. But Jha began moving the goalposts not long after that April 8 article wherein he said 500,000 per day were needed. Just ten days later, in a piece that Jha co-authored, he changed the metric from about 500,000 tests per day to at least 500,000 tests per day and probably more.

“In our analysis below, we estimate that the number of tests needed every day is, at a minimum, 500,000, though we likely need many more,” Jha and other public health officials wrote.

By May 4, Jha changed the game again. In a May 4 op-ed for NBC News, he upped the ante to four million tests per week–which translates to more than 570,000 tests per day–to fight the pandemic. “Increasing our testing capacity to at least nearly four million tests a week is difficult but possible,” Jha wrote for NBC News.

A little over a week later, by May 13, according to the Wall Street Journal, Jha increased the number of tests he believes the United States needs to conduct per week to six million per week.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Thomas Burton wrote on May 13:

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, estimated that the nation needs to perform more than six million tests every week if it is to cast a wide enough net to detect the majority of people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

That means Jha, in just over a month from that initial April 8 estimate of 500,000 tests per day necessity, he increased it to over 857,000 tests per day–which is what six million per week translates to.

But he wasn’t done moving the goalposts then. Again, he moved them on May 2, according to National Public Radio (NPR) Jha upped his estimations to  seven million tests per week being necessary to safely reopen the country and stay open. In response to President Donald Trump’s testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir noting that three million tests were being conducted per week in that May 28 NPR story, Jha shot it down as insufficient.

“It is not nearly enough, certainly not enough to open up safely and remain open,” Jha said.

The story from NPR’s Joel Rose then paraphrased Jha fully doubling his initial testing estimates. “At a minimum, Jha says the U.S. needs to be testing twice as many people — 7 million per week,” NPR’s Rose wrote.

Seven million tests per week means a million tests per day, which is of course more than double what Jha originally said back on April 8.

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