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HHS secretary unsure of how many Americans have been tested for virus

HHS secretary unsure of how many Americans have been tested for virus
© Greg Nash

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said early Tuesday that U.S. health officials do not know how many Americans have been tested for coronavirus. 

Azar said during an interview on CNN’s “New Day” that some tests have been conducted by private labs and hospitals. 

“We don’t know exactly how many because hundreds of thousands of our tests have gone out to private labs and hospitals that currently do not report in to CDC [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]," Azar said.

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"We’re working with the CDC and those partners to get an IT reporting system up and running, hopefully this week, where we would be able to get that data, to keep track of how many we’re testing."

Azar also said a study by the American Enterprise Institute found that the U.S. could be testing 10,000 people a day, potentially increasing to 20,000 a day by the end of the week.

The Atlantic reported Monday that they could only verify that 4,384 people have been tested for the coronavirus nationwide after surveying local data from across the country. 

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“Does that seem ballpark accurate to you?” CNN’s John Berman asked Azar on Tuesday.

“I just wouldn’t want to speculate. Listen, my hallmark here is that I’m going to tell you what I know, and I’m going to tell you what we do not know. We’re about leveling with the American people and being transparent, and right now I’m just telling you, when somebody sells a test kit to a private entity, right now, we don’t know when or if that’s been used, but we are working with them to get that system set up,” Azar responded. 

Berman also noted that South Korea began testing more than 10,000 people a day within a week of their first case of confirmed coronavirus.

Azar responded that the U.S.’s “testing approach” has been consistent with other countries with a similar spread of the virus and that public health officials in the U.S. who wanted to get a patient tested for novel coronavirus have been able to through the CDC.  

The CDC says it has performed 1,583 tests for the coronavirus.

— Jessie Hellmann contributed to this report, which was updated at 9:55 a.m.