Story at a glance
- Vice President Pence said there’s roughly about 1.5 million tests going out to hospitals.
- The Trump administration’s response to the outbreak is being criticized by the top Democrat on the Senate health committee.
- More than 160 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the U.S. with 11 deaths.
Vice President Pence says the United States does not currently have enough coronavirus tests to meet the expected demand.
“We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” Pence, who is overseeing the administration's response to the virus, told reporters Thursday, according to CNN.
“For those that we believe have been exposed, for those who are showing symptoms, we’ve been able to provide the testing,” Pence said, adding that there’s roughly about a million and a half tests currently going out to hospitals.
Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee sent a letter to the vice president Thursday, pressing him for answers on the lack of readily available diagnostic tests for COVID-19.
“I am extremely frustrated by how the Trump administration has handled the deployment of such tests, including how it has communicated to Congress and the public about when, where, and to whom tests will be available,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote to Pence.
Murray accused the administration of failing to take steps that could expedite the response, “resulting in a slower employment of tests to people in need.”
Murray also asked for an explanation as to why the U.S. is not using a World Health Organization (WHO) test and an estimate on how many patients will be able to receive testing in the near future.
The senator’s state of Washington has been hit hardest by the outbreak in the U.S. At least 10 deaths have been reported in the Seattle area, with at least 70 others infected. Murray also leads the Senate health committee.
The Senate on Thursday passed more than $8 billion in funding to combat the coronavirus, sending the measure to President Trump's desk after it cleared the House Wednesday.
Included within that is $2.2 billion to help federal, state and local public health agencies prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, including funds for lab testing, infection control and tracing individuals who might have had contact with infected people.