Story at a glance

  • CDC official Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters that improved test kits were sent to local health labs today.
  • They exclude the reagent returning inconclusive results.
  • The CDC plans to expand testing across the U.S. as a preventative measure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed in a Friday briefing that it is doubling-down on containment efforts against COVID-19 spread in the U.S.

Speaking with reporters in a weekly Friday briefing, Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. Nancy Messonnier confirmed that state health clinics and labs will be able to begin coronavirus testing with update kits delivered from the CDC. 

Messonnier said that experts had revised faulty tests and removed the third reagent component that gave inconclusive results. The kits now use two reagents, which she says will work properly. The CDC manufactured new test kits through the International Reagent Resource, a branch of the CDC. The test kits are called Research Use Only (RUO) and Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), and available for order from both domestic and international public health partners. 

In conjunction with local testing, which the CDC asserts is one of the best ways to monitor COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Messonnier confirmed that a CDC team has been dispatched to California after the diagnosis on a new patient that came earlier this week. It may be the first case of community spread in the U.S., but Messonnier pointed out that the CDC will be investigating the patient’s recent contact.

People exposed to COVID-19 patients are at risk depending on the type of contact, Messonnier said. The CDC is focusing on treating symptomatic people who have had contact with potential patients or have recently traveled to high-risk areas. However, the criteria for identifying persons under investigation (PUIs) has evolved, and will continue evolving. 

Messonnier also contradicted earlier reports and said that no teams charged with treating PUIs have said “no” to any testing. 

The next steps will include increased state monitoring, with people possibly hearing from state health care clinics directly. Messonnier reiterates that accelerated diagnosis capacity remains the best way to fight COVID-19 and that immediate risk in the U.S. remains low. Still, she anticipates new cases, particularly involving community spread, to emerge. 

She adds that the CDC “will be working through procedures with states on testing” with the goal to have local testing established in every state. 

Published on Feb 28, 2020