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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen January 19, 2022

No, putting a stop to COVID-19 testing won't make the pandemic disappear

If Your Time is short

  • Ending testing for COVID-19 wouldn't mean an end to the pandemic. It would just mean the spread and severity of the virus would go unknown. 
  • Vaccinated people with the virus will often develop mild, cold-like symptoms, but are still infectious.

As the omicron variant of the coronavirus fueled a surge of COVID-19 cases around the United States, a Facebook post resurfaced the idea that testing for the virus is the reason why the pandemic has persisted.

The Jan. 5 Facebook post is an image macro featuring a screenshot of Glinda the Good Witch from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz."

"If you stop testing it all goes away and people just have colds like before," reads text superimposed on the screenshot.

The post, which we found on a Facebook page called "Funny Clean Memes," was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post essentially makes the claim that the pandemic has only endured because of large-scale testing.

But if testing for COVID-19 were to stop, the virus wouldn’t just go away.

A halt in testing would eliminate data showing where and how the virus has spread — it would not mean that the virus would no longer exist, said Vickie Mays, a professor of psychology and health policy and management at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health.

"It’s the data that indicates that, not only does the problem exist, but it also tells you about the magnitude of the problem," she said.

Mays said that widespread testing and vaccinations have changed what the pandemic looks like now.

In the early days of the pandemic, before widespread testing and vaccinations, people who had COVID-19 developed serious symptoms. Because of the nature and severity of their symptoms, a test wasn’t strictly needed to tell if someone had COVID-19, Mays said.

With a larger number of people vaccinated against the virus, those who test positive now may likely develop only mild symptoms, but they are still infectious.

"The milder response might look like it’s a cold," Mays said. "But those colds are literally not just a cold. They may be indicators that a person might be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus."

The U.S. saw a daily average of 756,752 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, with the average daily testing rate at 2.5 million, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus tracker.

However, the numbers are likely an undercount because of a lack of access to testing and people who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms choosing to not get tested. One group of researchers found that, at one point in the pandemic, up to 60% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. went unreported.

Testing is also used to screen for asymptomatic infected people, as they could unknowingly spread the virus to others. It’s particularly important when an asymptomatic person lives in a group environment, such as a nursing facility or multi-generational home, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims that, if people were to stop testing for COVID-19, the pandemic would go away and people will "just have colds like before."

Testing does not cause the virus, and putting a stop to it wouldn't mean an end to the pandemic. Testing is important to track the spread and severity of the virus in a community.

If testing does stop and people appear to just have colds, that could still mean they’re infected with COVID-19. A person who is vaccinated against the virus but still gets infected is more likely to develop mild symptoms that have the appearance of a cold. They could unknowingly spread the virus to other people.

We rate the Facebook post False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 5, 2022

Archive of Facebook post

Phone interview with Vickie Mays, psychology and health policy and management professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, of Jan. 11, 2021

The New York Times, Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak, accessed Jan. 14, 2022

The New York Times, Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, accessed Jan. 14, 2022

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Estimating SARS-CoV-2 infections from deaths, confirmed cases, tests, and random surveys," Aug. 3, 2021

National Institute on Aging, "Why COVID-19 testing is the key to getting back to normal," Sept. 4, 2020

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No, putting a stop to COVID-19 testing won't make the pandemic disappear

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