At a news conference late Friday local time, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration would eventually be able to provide more than 1 million tests for the new coronavirus COVID-19,media outlet TechCrunch reported. Pence detailed the White House’s ongoing efforts to coordinate the response to the spread of the new coronavirus. Representatives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases attended the launch.
The CDC will release tests that can test 1.1 million people by the end of the week, and 1 million tests by next week for quality assurance tests, according to FDA Director Stephen Hahn.
Initially, the White House had hoped to release the testing reagents by the end of the week, but could not meet that demand. Pence said at a news conference that at least 2.1 million tests could be conducted next week, and that a consortium of private testing companies would add more capabilities over time.
On Thursday, the White House announced the creation of a consortium of the nation’s largest private testing companies, which are now mobilizing to provide testing reagents to commercial and private agency testing agencies across the country. Participants at Friday’s White House meeting included LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Abbott Labies and Mayo Clinic, Reuters reported.
Earlier this week, Lab Corp said it would begin immediate testing of the COVID-19, while Quest Diagnostics said it would begin testing next week. Two private test manufacturers will be able to charge for their tests, while tests conducted by the CDC and state agencies are free.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that COVID-19 testing would be a basic health benefit, meaning Medicaid and Medicare would bear the cost of testing. According to CNBC, under the Affordable Care Act, health plans for large employers must cover the cost of health benefits such as preventive testing, but these tests are not necessarily free.
Until last week, only CDC-approved laboratories were able to test for the new coronavirus, but after an outcry from state and local governments, the CDC opened new testing facilities for people who may be infected with the virus.
While the US government touts testing capabilities, the actual figure is still far below official requirements, according to a report in The Atlantic. The report claims that only 1,895 people in the United States have been tested for the coronavirus, and about 10 percent have been infected with the disease. Even with new testing reagents available to state and local governments, the capability allows only thousands of tests, not the tens of thousands the White House wants, the report said.
At the same time, the CDC’s official report lags behind other indicators, and the official description is very different from what is reflected in the local government report summary. There are 331 confirmed cases of new coronavirus in the United States, according to the latest data from the Disease Tracker provided by Johns Hopkins University. The CDC reported only 164 cases.
The reason is that the United States Government has stopped reporting the total number of cases and left the work to the states. As The Atlantic reported:
In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of the first case of community-borne transmission, and 10,000 people were soon tested a day. There have been only 115 positive cases in the UK (163 by the time of publication), but the virus has so far been tested on 18,083 people.
Typically, the collection of such data in the United States will be left to CDC epidemiologists. The agency regularly collects and publishes positive and negative test results for several pathogens, including multiple seasonal influenzas. But earlier this week, the agency announced it would stop publishing negative results on coronaviruses, an unusual step that essentially left Americans wondering how many people were tested in general.
The CDC says there is a reason for the lack of tracking because it does not accurately reflect the number of tests conducted because states are responsible for their own tests. Nancy Messonnier, who oversees cdc response and respiratory research, said: “States are rapidly reporting results, and if there is a difference between the CDC and the number of cases in each state, it should always consider updating the number of cases in that state.” “
Ultimately, the U.S. government seems to be improving its response to the spread of the virus by providing health officials with the tools they need to accurately test the spread of the disease in populations.