US Vice President Pence announced today that the states have enough COVID-19 coronavirus tests to be able to begin the first phase of reopening the American economy.
“Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so,” Pence said at today’s news briefing.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, gave some backup to Pence’s argument.
He acknowledged a “problem” with the initial rollout of the tests, but said problems are being fixed.
“Many of those have been already corrected and other[s] of those will be corrected,” Fauci said today. “We will have and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country through phase one.”
Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden said that at least 3 times as many tests are needed to safely reopen the economy.
According to a check with various labs, they say are dealing with constant shortages of supplies for testing, such as swabs. Without swabs not all testing machines can be used to their full capacity.
Michael Mina, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, confirmed, “The real bottleneck has been actually these swabs. It’s just astounding these are still causing the problems. People are clamoring to get any line on a swab manufacturer.”
Responding to the problem of not enough swabs for coronavirus tests, Trump acknowledged more is needed while adding, “It’s just cotton.”
Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the administration would be securing 5 million more swabs by the end of April, and more in May. He estimated the country needs to do 4.5 million tests per month in phase one, which the country is on track for, given its current rate of 1 million to 1.2 million tests weekly.
Yesterday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the country and his state, which was one of the first to be hard-hit by the pandemic, are “1,000 miles away” from having enough tests.
Coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said she is leading a team out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to call labs and find out what supplies they need. According to Birx, “They’re calling lab by lab to find out what are the technical difficulties to bring up all the platforms that exist in your lab. Is it swabs? Is it transport media?”
Phase one of the government’s reopening plan calls on “vulnerable individuals” to shelter in place, and for people to avoid gatherings of over 10 people unless they can socially distance. Bars will remain closed, although gyms might be able to re-open with proper procedures.