COVID-19 Testing Yields 90% False Positives

On August 29, 2020 the New York Times published an article indicating that about 90% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 have such insignificant amounts of the virus present, that they are not contagious and that the virus poses no significant health risk.  About 90% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 have such a small amount of the virus present in their bodies that these individuals do not need to isolate, and they are not candidates for contact tracing.  The NYT states that “Most of these people are not likely to be contagious.”  “In three sets of testing data…compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90% of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.”  Why are we basing policy on a testing procedure the yields 90% false positives?

Published by markskidmore

Mark Skidmore is Professor of Economics at Michigan State University where he holds the Morris Chair in State and Local Government Finance and Policy. His research focuses on topics in public finance, regional economics, and the economics of natural disasters. Mark created the Lighthouse Economics website and blog to share economic research and information relevant for navigating tumultuous times.

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