Mar 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House Oversight asks for Trump administration's coronavirus testing plan

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House Oversight Committee asked the Trump administration on Thursday to demonstrate how it plans to produce and distribute coronavirus testing kits to Americans.

The big picture: The testing capacity for the coronavirus has expanded in the U.S. as more commercial labs pledge to up production. But labs have been sounding the alarm about dwindling supplies — and early testing failures left the country in the dark on how many people have been exposed to the virus.

What they're saying: "We are gravely concerned that, due to multiple missteps, people across the country have been unable to get tested as healthcare providers are being forced to ration the extremely limited number of tests available, significantly degrading our country's ability to conduct accurate modeling of the spread of the virus," House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked, alongside other subcommittee chairs.

  • The Trump administration's coronavirus task force has fallen short of its promise to ship millions of tests to Americans by last week, the chairs point out.
  • The committee also wants information on how the administration plans to produce and ship coronavirus tests, which officials are involved in coordinating the effort, and documentation on the country's testing capacity.

Flashback: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that the health care system "is not really geared to what we need right now" when asked if there is one person in charge who can ensure that Americans who need coronavirus tests are receiving them.

  • "That is a failing. Let's admit it. ... The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it — we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we're not," he said.

Go deeper: Coronavirus testing is getting better

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Trump weighs plan to label counties by coronavirus "risk" level

Trump at a White House coronavirus task force briefing on March 25. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Trump administration is developing a plan to label counties across the country as "high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk" areas for the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump said in a letter to the nation's governors on Thursday.

Why it matters: Against the warnings of health experts, Trump is pushing for parts of the country to lift social distancing restrictions over the next few weeks and months, believing that the economic toll of an extended quarantine will be more damaging than the virus itself.

U.S. health official expects nearly 1M coronavirus tests this week

Vice President Mike Pence (C) speaks at the White House Monday, flanked by (L to R) senior health officials Robert Redfield, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Debbie Birx, Seema Verma, Alex Azar and Stephen Hahn. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn told a news conference Monday that health officials should be able to perform nearly 1 million tests for the novel coronavirus by the end of the week.

Why it matters: Officials in the U.S. and around the world are scrambling to combat a rise in cases of COVID-19.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - Health

Dangerous backlog: Coronavirus results can take a week or more

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Even if you’re able to get tested for the coronavirus, it’ll still take about a week to get the results back — which means the U.S. still doesn’t have a real-time handle on the number of infected people.

Why it matters: We need to know where the virus is spreading in order to get a lid on those outbreaks before they become catastrophic.

Go deeperArrowMar 26, 2020 - Health