A Disturbing Disparity in COVID-19 Testing Capacity

Four months ago, in response to requests from our customers and users for current and accurate coronavirus testing information, Castlight launched the first nationwide directory of COVID-19 testing sites. In the months since, the directory has been employed by state governments, Fortune 500 companies and health plans nationwide, and feeds Google Maps searches for local testing resources. To date, more than 1.3 million unique visitors have used the test site finder, which currently includes 8,179 sites across all 50 states. 

Using information gathered in the directory, we have examined the important role test site location would play in plans to re-open communities and the economy. Our studies revealed that large areas of the country remained vulnerable to undetected coronavirus outbreaks, a concern that is only heightened as cases have begun to surge again across the country. 

Now, the team of journalists and analysts at ABC News’ FiveThirtyEight have leveraged the directory to further evaluate the availability of test sites across the country. The resulting article reveals a disturbing disparity in testing capacity for communities of color as compared to wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. The details of their approach and analysis are spelled out in an accompanying article, but the bottom line is that while COVID-19 is impacting Black and Hispanic communities in the U.S. more severely, these communities “face a dire situation in terms of getting a COVID-19 test.”  The analysis investigated the whole of the U.S., and included more in-depth discussion of major population centers including New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, San Antonio, Dallas, San Diego and Los Angeles.

“The Castlight data analysis has helped shed light on the racial, ethnic and income disparities in the allocation of COVID-19 testing resources, and ABC News and FiveThirtyEight’s reporting shows how gaps created by systemic inequity in the health care system continue to persist even as states, cities and counties step up efforts to address them.” 

We are proud of the role Castlight has been able to play in helping employers, health plans and state health officials chart the path back to health and productivity.  We hope that FiveThirtyEight’s analysis brings further attention to the issues of inequity in our healthcare system, particularly in the context of this global crisis. Castlight was founded on the principle of applying data-driven insights to improve the healthcare experience, and that mission applies to all of our fellow citizens.