Trump administration pledges to expand coronavirus testing this week

Trump administration officials on Sunday vowed to have expanded coronavirus testing capabilities up and running this week as confirmed cases nationally approached 3,000.

Vice President Pence and public health officials told reporters at the White House to expect 1.9 million high throughput tests sent out to different laboratories across the country this week, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to be tested quickly. Officials also said to expect a website directing Americans showing symptoms when and where to get tested should be viable early in the week after initial confusion.

Adm. Brett Giroir, who is overseeing the administration's testing efforts, indicated that the country's testing capacity and efficiency would significantly increase in the coming week as additional labs ramp up and private companies work on establishing additional testing locations.

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"We are now in a new phase of testing," Giroir said. "We’re going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases to a testing regiment that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week, and maybe even more."

Giroir said 1.9 million high throughput tests will be available this week, and up to 2,000 labs will be operational, calling the additional facilities a "game changer" for processing results.

He stressed that higher-risk individuals would be prioritized for testing, such as the elderly or those who are immunocompromised. One goal, he explained, is to test in a way that doesn't overburden hospitals and the health care system.

Some states could soon start launching drive-thru or walk-thru testing centers that could screen up to 4,000 people per day, Giroir said.

"I’m not going to say that the lab testing issue is over, because it’s not," Giroir said Sunday. "It’s entering the next phase, but the much higher priority now is now that we have the testing available, how do we get people into the system to be tested in the appropriate prioritized way."

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The Trump administration has faced withering criticism over delays and limited capacity in testing for coronavirus, which experts say as setback efforts to isolate the spread of the disease. The U.S. has struggled to expand testing while countries like South Korea have tested thousands of people each day, an issue for which Trump said he takes no responsibility.

In an effort to ease the process of getting tested, Pence said a website being developed by Google should be up and running early in the week. The site would allow Americans to determine whether they should get tested, and if so when and where to go for that test.

The vice president's assessment came after initial confusion on the launch of the site, which was first discussed during a Friday news conference in the Rose Garden. President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE said then that "1,700 engineers" were working on the project, which would be completed "very quickly."

But Google said Friday that it was merely developing a website for the Bay Area in California and hoped later to expand it more broadly.

The company on Saturday clarified that it is "partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information."

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Trump made a short appearance at Sunday's briefing where he did not take questions, but instead hailed emergency measures by the Federal Reserve to boost the economy and accused the press of inaccurately reporting on Google's initial statement.

More than 2,900 people in the U.S. are confirmed to have the coronavirus, and roughly 60 people have died from the disease as of Sunday afternoon.

Officials in Illinois, California and Ohio issued edicts on Sunday directing restaurants and bars to close or only serve take-out or delivery in an effort to limit the number of people congregating and potentially transmitting the virus.

Pence said the administration would release additional guidance on Monday morning on social distancing measures, but that the federal government would defer to state and local officials to enact policies fit to their individual situations.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would not elaborate on the guidance but did not rule out the potential of a national lockdown similar to what is taking place in Italy.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," he said. "It is how we respond to that challenge that’s going to determine what that ultimate endpoint is going to be."