In recent days an increase in the number of positive cases of COVID have been reported in North Dakota. Along with the increase in cases is the frequent claim that increased cases are “partly” due to increases in testing. Assertions that attribute increases in cases of COVID to increased testing are not only based upon faulty logic but terribly misleading.

What if you had a sample of 100 people and 70 of those people had the virus? If you tested no one does that mean you have 0 cases of COVID? Clearly that is not the case. If we stopped testing for cancer and then find no cases of cancer can we conclude cancer is gone? If you draw that conclusion you only bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything is fine.

I also want to raise a concern that testing has been voluntary. That procedure makes it extremely difficult to draw clear conclusions from the results of the testing. For example, what are the characteristics of someone who volunteers to be tested? Certainly someone with symptoms of COVID or a concern for their health will want to be tested. A concern about health would also lead someone to wear their mask and maintain social distancing. So that raises the question about how the testing results obtained from this specific sample of people represents the general population.

Public health money would be better spent by ensuring a testing sample that is representative of typical students, faculty and staff. Only then can the results of testing clearly inform the mitigation efforts.

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