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Trump Says U.S. Has Enough Test Capacity Amid Shortage Concern

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 4/18/2020 Mario Parker and Kristen V. Brown

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President Donald Trump said there’s enough coronavirus testing capacity to put in place his plan to allow a phased reopening of the economy, even though some state officials and business leaders have raised alarms about shortages.

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“We’ve already built sufficient testing capacity nationwide so states can begin their re-openings,” the president said Friday at the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that the Trump administration would work with governors to ensure labs are fully using their capacities.

The new guidance Trump announced Thursday relies on governors to decide when their states are prepared to attempt to reopen businesses and schools, based on declining indicators of infections and health-system readiness. The plan was faulted by some Democrats and others because it does nothing to address a shortage of testing for the virus.

Business leaders and lawmakers told Trump in phone calls this week that the U.S. must increase its testing capacity before attempting to reopen the economy. Trump also tweeted on Friday that “the States have to step up their TESTING!”

In many parts of the country, health officials say adequate levels of testing still haven’t been reached. California has been especially hamstrung, reporting more than 7,000 backlogged tests on Friday despite massive pushes to process more tests.

Earlier: Trump and Cuomo Mock Each Other in Real Time Over Virus Aid

Some experts have suggested the U.S. may still need double or even triple the amount of testing the White House has called for in order to adequately test those with symptoms as well as their contacts and health care workers.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California said it would build its own Covid-19 $14 million testing lab in just 60 days to help deal with backlogs. This week, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly told CNN that Kansas and other Midwestern states have struggled to acquire testing resources.

Guidelines issued by the White House did not require that testing meet any specific level of capacity but only that it be “efficient.” Several states, including California, Texas, and New York, the White House said, have the “potential” to process as many as 1 million tests. Efforts have been made to increase testing efficiency through developing and validating new types of swabs to collect samples, as well as the liquid that preserves samples before they can be processed.

Thus far, the White House says, the country has conducted more than 3.7 million tests. Experts suggest it should conducting more than 500,000 each day.

There were more than 692,000 cases in the U.S., the most in the world, and more than 36,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

‘There is Capacity’

At the White House, health officials said they are trying to determine where shortfalls may exist preventing the full testing capacity from being used.

“Everything has to be working from the swab to the transport media,” said Deborah Birx, one of the top public-health experts on the White House coronavirus task force.

“There is capacity out there,” Birx said. “It is our job working with the states” to make sure all the testing in the U.S. “is brought to bear.”

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