Scientists hope more testing will help them better understand how coronavirus has spread

Mar 19, 2020

Scientists say they’re hopeful there will be tests within the next few months to help researchers better understand how coronavirus spread in the US.

Current tests for coronavirus only tell doctors if a patient is currently infected with the virus.

Researchers say they’re hopeful there will soon be tests that track whether a person has ever been infected with Covid-19.

Emily Martin is an Epidemiologist with the University of Michigan.

“The testing backlog has meant that we haven’t gotten a full picture of what is going on,” she said. “That’s going to tell us the timing of when the virus truly reached different areas of the country.”

Martin said that data will help researchers understand whether there were milder cases that masked themselves as the common cold.

She said researchers are still in the early days of understanding how the virus is spreading across the state and country. Testing will improve that understanding but, Martin said, there will be an increase in reported cases.

“The case counts are going to skyrocket. And it’s because we know more, we’re seeing more of the picture, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the virus is moving faster.”

Martin said it’s important to take the virus seriously - even if it feels like control measures are an overreaction.

“Public health works the best when it feels like an overreaction or it feels like nothing is happening. It means we’ve prevented it from getting worse.”

The data is clear that social distancing measures are most effective in the early days of the virus' spread.

The data is also clear, according to Martin, that the disease is both more contagious and more deadly than the common flu.