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GOP senator: 'We're way behind' on coronavirus testing

GOP senator: 'We're way behind' on coronavirus testing
© Greg Nash

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Thursday that the United States still needs to ramp up coronavirus testing as some states look to begin lifting social distancing restrictions. 

"On top of keeping people safe, we've got to get this testing right. We're way behind still where we should be on testing," Scott told reporters about governors taking different approaches. 

Scott added that while most health care is "delivered" at the local level, states can "organize it" and the federal government can "help fund it."

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Scott also highlighted testing in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday, writing that "anyone who wants to be tested should be able to get tested. Period. There is no excuse anymore." 

"While the federal government works with states and the private sector to produce widely available rapid tests, it also must do everything in its power to support the research and expedited development of a coronavirus vaccine," he said.

"When the vaccine becomes available, it needs to be free to all Americans," he added. 

The ability to get a coronavirus test has emerged as a point of contention in recent weeks, with public health experts, state and local officials, and lawmakers warning that the U.S. still needs to ramp up testing capacity. 

Vice President Pence said Thursday that the U.S. had performed more than 4.93 million tests and that commercial labs had ramped up testing to 100,000 per day.

Experts say there needs to be widespread access to testing before social distancing restrictions begin to be lifted so that government officials can have an accurate representation of the number of coronavirus cases, as well as track and prevent a resurgence of cases. 

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But President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE on Thursday broke with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Underfunding classics and humanities is dangerous MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who said that the U.S. does not yet have the testing capacity that it needs to effectively contain the spread of the coronavirus as stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed.

“No, I don’t agree with him on that. I think we are doing a great job on testing,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday. 

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Time magazine in an interview published earlier Thursday that the U.S. needs to “significantly ramp up” testing in order to contain future outbreaks.

Congress on Thursday passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, which included $25 billion for testing. A provision in the legislation requires states to come up with plans for how the resources will be used for testing, as well as requiring a "strategic plan" from the administration on helping states with testing and increasing testing capacity.