Epidemiologist: We don’t yet know how much worse this will get but more testing will help

BOSTON — It is a public health horror show rapidly unfolding.

In a little more than a week, the proportion of those tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts and found positive has more than doubled.

"I think what we're seeing is that the spread of coronavirus is much more vast than what we had initially thought," Dr. Summer Johnson McGee, Health Sciences Dean at the University of New Haven, said.

Recent three day periods show a steady rise in the number testing positive in our state.

The state went from 10 percent to 16 percent, to nearly 23 percent testing positive so far this week.

To put things into a more dramatic perspective, six percent tested positive on March 24. Eight days later, positive cases topped 23 percent.

"The upside of this is that 80 percent of the people tested don't have COVID-19," McGee said.

But that upside pales in comparison to the situation in store if even a small percentage of the positive cases end up needing hospital care, she said.

"We are not going to have anywhere near enough hospital beds in the state of Massachusetts or in Connecticut or in New York to come near treating all of the people that are going to develop complications from this," she said.

And the worst of it may be knocking at the door.

With projections for a mid-April surge in COVID-19 patients needing hospital care, the Commonwealth unveiled a 250-bed field hospital at the DCU Center in Worcester and at least two more such hospitals are on the way.

And while testing in Massachusetts has picked way up, more testing would provide crucial information, says McGee.

"Widespread testing would tell us how many people are out there that are carrying this virus that don't know that they're potentially affecting others," McGee said.

Mass testing would also help answer the most vexing question for everyone: How long will this go on?

“We may end up being home for a few more months to really get a handle on this and really flatten the curve,” said McGee.

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