Top general: Pentagon has brought 3.5M test swabs from Italy to US

Top general: Pentagon has brought 3.5M test swabs from Italy to US
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The U.S. military has brought 3.5 million coronavirus test swabs to the U.S. from Italy since mid-March, with another 500,000 on the way, a top general said Friday.

The swabs have been transported from Italy to Memphis, Tenn., on seven separate C-17 cargo flights, the most recent arriving Thursday night, Air Mobility Command deputy commander Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon.

A shipment of 500,000 more swabs is scheduled to arrive Friday, with a ninth shipment slated for next week, he added.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it procured the swabs from Italian company Copan Diagnostics, "one of the major suppliers for the U.S. market for sample kits."

Once the swabs arrive in Memphis, they are loaded onto FedEx aircraft and distributed around the country as directed by HHS.

The Trump administration has faced intense criticism over the lack of widely available coronavirus tests. The U.S. has performed nearly 1.3 million tests since the crisis began, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Thomas said Air Mobility Command had not received any requests to transport coronavirus patients.

“We are prepared to do it today in small numbers should the requirement manifest itself,” he said.

Medics are being trained at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., on using an aircraft isolation system that could be used to protect aircrew while transporting infected individuals, he said.

Updated at 6:21 p.m.