White House says US has enough tests for first phase of reopening

The White House on Friday said that states have enough coronavirus tests to be able to enter the first phase of its plan for reopening the economy.
The statement comes as the administration is facing pressure to increase the testing capacity. 
But officials, including administration health experts, sought to push back on the alarm and express confidence in the testing capabilities, at least for the first phase of reopening.
“Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so,” Vice President Pence told reporters at a news briefing Friday.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, gave some backup to Pence’s argument. 
He acknowledged a “problem” with the initial rollout of the tests, but said problems are being fixed. 
“Many of those have been already corrected and other[s] of those will be corrected,” Fauci said Friday. “We will have and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country through phase one.”
Phase one of the government’s reopening plan would still call on “vulnerable individuals” to shelter in place, and for people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people unless they can socially distance. Bars would remain closed, though gyms could open with proper procedures. 
The pushback from the White House comes as governors, lawmakers and many outside health experts have been clamoring for more testing. 
Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden said earlier Friday that at least three times as many tests are needed to safely reopen the economy. 
Labs say they are facing persistent shortages of supplies for testing, such as swabs, meaning that not all testing machines can be used to their full capacity. 
“The real bottleneck has been actually these swabs,” Michael Mina, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said earlier on Friday. “It’s just astounding these are still causing the problems. People are clamoring to get any line on a swab manufacturer.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Thursday the country and his state, which was one of the first to be hard-hit by the pandemic, are “1,000 miles away” from having enough tests. 
The White House acknowledged the problems with supplies like swabs.
Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the administration would be securing 5 million more swabs by the end of April, and more in May. 
Coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said she is leading a team out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to call labs and find out what supplies they need. 
“They’re calling lab by lab to find out what are the technical difficulties to bring up all the platforms that exist in your lab. Is it swabs? Is it transport media?” she said. 
Giroir estimated that the country needs to do 4.5 million tests per month in phase one, which the country is on track for given its current rate of 1 million to 1.2 million tests weekly.
Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus Jay Inslee Mike Pence

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