Issues with CDC coronavirus test pose challenges for expanded screening

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Expanded screening for the coronavirus has been postponed amid issues with a test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although the Trump administration had planned to expand screening to various state and local public health labs, only three of more than 100 such labs nationwide have verified the CDC’s test for use, Politico reported.

The CDC has also had to postpone its plans to screen samples collected during flu surveillance for the virus using public health labs in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the publication further delays could leave public health officials ill-equipped to detect scattered cases as they accumulate.

“By that point, it may be harder to contain spread, and we’ll be forced to rely on mitigation tactics to just limit the impact of the virus,” he told Politico.

One of the three reagents upon which the test hinges produced inconclusive results during a quality check, Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the American Association of Public Health Laboratories, told Politico.

The news comes after more than 20 Senate Democrats said in a letter that the Trump administration should put additional funds toward its response to the virus after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warned it was running low.

“We strongly urge the administration to transmit an emergency supplemental request that ensures it can and will fully reimburse states for the costs they are incurring as part of this response,” they wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

The virus has thus far been confirmed in more than 75,000 people and killed more than 2,100, with the vast majority of cases in China.

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