The campaign to massively expand diagnostic testing in the US comes as new COVID-19 cases remain high, at more than 40,000 a day
President Donald Trump announced Monday that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states in the coming days , urging governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The drive to massively expand diagnostic testing in the United States comes as new COVID-19 cases remain elevated, at more than 40,000 a day , and experts warn of a likely increase in infections during the colder months ahead.
It also comes with just five weeks to go until the November presidential election, and as Trump faces continued criticism for his handling of the crisis.
The tests will be sent to states based on their population numbers and can be used as governors see fit, but the Trump administration is encouraging them to prioritize schools. White House officials said during an event at the Rose Garden that 6.5 million tests will be shipped this week and that a total of 100 million tests will be distributed to states in the coming weeks.
Officials said the government is emphasizing the need to administer the tests in schools because it believes it is important for students’ physical, social and emotional development to be back in the classroom to the extent possible.
Abbott Laboratories tests would let parents know if their asymptomatic child has COVID-19. In some cases, states may test a certain number of students per week or per month to ensure that the incidence of coronavirus is low.
“We have too many states that are confined right now,” Trump said. ” The governors are … nobody really knows what the governors are doing .”
The tests will come from a previously announced supply of 150 million that was ordered from Abbott. The company’s credit card-sized quick test is the first that does not require specialized computer equipment for processing. Delivers results in approximately 15 minutes.
Rapid tests are considered essential to jumpstart the American economy. But its use has been fraught with problems since the early days of the outbreak.
First, the government wasted critical weeks distributing and then correcting an unreliable test developed by American scientists. Then for months, private laboratories and hospitals struggled to increase testing capacity due to a shortage of key supplies, such as the reagents to perform tests.
The issue is politically sensitive for Trump as he deals with the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. For months, the president has lobbied state and local leaders to reopen schools this fall.
It wasn’t until the last two months that America’s testing capacity has generally outstripped demand. The government’s top testing official, Admiral Brett Giroir, told Congress last week that the nation will soon have the capacity to perform 3 million tests a day, on average. The United States has been averaging about 900,000 tests daily, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.