Senators: U.S. to miss rollout goal this week on virus tests

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Above is a CDC laboratory test kit for the coronavirus.
TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

BY DANIEL FLATLEY
BLOOMBERG NEWS/TNS

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration won’t be able to meet its promised timeline of having a million coronavirus tests available by the end of the week, senators said after a briefing Thursday from health officials.

“There won’t be a million people to get a test by the end of the week,” Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said. “It’s way smaller than that. And still, at this point, it’s still through public health departments.”

Scott and other lawmakers said the government is “in the process” of sending test kits out and people still need to be trained on how to use them. The entire process could take days or weeks, they said.

“By the end of the week they’re getting them out to the mail,” Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said. “It’s going to take time to be able to get them, receive them, re-verify them and then be able to put them into use.”

Earlier this week, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told senators at a hearing that the U.S. would have the “capacity” to perform up to a million tests by the end of the week, a timetable reinforced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a White House briefing Wednesday.

Azar lauded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA for “unbelievably fast work that is leading to 1 million tests being available by the end of the week in this country.”

CRITICIZED FOR SHORTAGE

The senators were briefed Thursday by Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security.

“It’s going to take a couple of weeks,” Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland said. “Even though the kit arrives, they say by the end of the week, I don’t think they’ll be ready for tests by the end of the week.”

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said senators were given a document with information about the coronavirus and how to avoid contracting it, but there were no details about how or where to be tested.

The Trump administration has come under criticism for the test-kit shortage, which local public health officials have said hampers their ability to survey the U.S. population for the virus.

“Our single greatest challenge is the lack of fast federal action to increase testing capacity — without that, we cannot beat this epidemic back,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Thursday as he announced two additional cases diagnosed in the city.

Stacie Sherman contributed to this report.

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