California needs to do 7.5x more COVID-19 testing, earns “F” on scorecard

Media Contacts
Claudia Deeg

Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network


OAKLAND, Calif. — With the novel coronavirus spreading unchecked across California, advocacy group CALPIRG released a scorecard that gives California an “F” for still not doing enough COVID-19 testing. Health experts agree that testing is one of the most effective ways to combat the virus, but according to a Brown University School of Public Health model, California has to do 7.5 times as much testing as it’s doing now.

“The virus is spreading like wildfire, but our testing capacity has increased at a glacial pace. Without widespread and efficient testing, health professionals can’t catch outbreaks before they explode, which puts everyone in the community at greater risk and prolongs economic damage,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Executive Director. 

CALPIRG is urging people to sign a petition to the governor urging him to commit to hitting the testing target that Brown and the Harvard Global Health Institute say is necessary to effectively suppress the virus. CALPIRG says in its updated scorecard, California has earned an F for being only 22.10% towards its testing target. Since CALPIRG first reviewed the state’s testing capacity in October, California’s progress toward its testing goal has increased from 11.7% to 22.10%. 

Governors should increase testing infrastructure so that all test results are available within 48 hours. Health professionals say that’s how long they have to prevent isolated incidents from becoming outbreaks. 

Health experts also say the federal government should invest at least $75 billion to boost testing infrastructure across the country. However, those kinds of resources are not included in relief packages that Congress is currently negotiating. So, just like most major COVID-19-related policies throughout the pandemic, state governors need to make it happen. Once they figure out the funding, to hit testing targets, they should adopt best practices from ten states that were meeting their targets at the time of our review, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine.

“With the virus surging all over the country, the first thing to do is get cases down quickly through temporary stay-at-home orders. But ramping up testing capacity is absolutely key to getting this virus under control for the long term,” said Rusch. 

For an analysis of all fifty states testing protocols, check out U.S. PIRG Health Care Campaigns Director Patricia Kelmar’s recent blog, “Is your state doing enough testing?”


CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.