COVID-19 Testing Needs to Be Limited to Priority Groups Until Sufficient Testing Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment is Available Nationwide

March 20, 2020

A joint statement by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Association of Public Health Laboratories, and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

ARLINGTON, VA—The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) issued the following policy recommendations regarding testing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Due to the widescale shortages of laboratory supplies and reagents, we strongly urge public health and healthcare professionals to prioritize COVID-19 testing among three specific groups:

  1. Healthcare workers and first responders with COVID-19 symptoms.
  2. Older Americans who have symptoms of COVID-19, especially those living in congregate settings.
  3. Individuals who may have other illnesses that would be treated differently if they were infected with COVID-19 and therefore physician judgment is especially important for this population.

Testing for individuals outside these three groups is not recommended until sufficient testing supplies and capacity become more widely available.

Community-based COVID-19 testing (drive-through, walk-up, etc.) should be focused on making tests available to the three priority groups above. The goal of providing these community-based testing sites is to limit potential introduction of COVID-19 in healthcare and congregate settings.

While some communities may have sufficient testing supplies and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) to expand COVID-19 testing to other groups, mass testing of any American for COVID-19 at this time will quickly deplete the existing supply of testing reagents, laboratory supplies, and PPE needed to manage patients in clinical, in-patient and other residential settings.

Healthy individuals who are not able to get tested should practice social-distancing and follow the recommendations of their local and state public health authorities. Individuals with mild illness should stay at home, practice self isolation, monitor their health and manage their symptoms using self-care, and contact their health care provider if their symptoms get worse.

For more information on COVID-19, including guidance and guidelines for healthcare and public health professionals, visit

For more information on ASTHO, including resources for state and territorial health agencies, please contact, or visit

For more information on APHL, please contact or visit

For more information on CSTE, visit or call (770) 458-3811.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.