NYC begs for more coronavirus tests, claiming ‘slow’ federal action impeding response

New York City health officials are begging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more coronavirus test kits, claiming slow action from the federal government is impeding their ability to “beat back” the epidemic. 

Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, New York City’s deputy mayor for health and human services, wrote in a letter to CDC officials Friday that more test kits are urgently needed to confirm suspected cases of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. 

Perea-Henze noted in the letter the two testing kits the state public health lab received from the CDC does not meet the needs of America’s most populated city. Each kit can run about 800 tests.

“With multiple positive cases, NYC needs maximum testing capacity to enable successful implementation of the public health strategies that best protect New Yorkers,” Perea-Henze wrote. 

The state has 33 confirmed cases, including five who are hospitalized. Four of the confirmed cases are in New York City. 

About 4,000 people are in quarantine throughout the state, including 2,700 in New York City, as a precautionary measure, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday. 

Those people have returned from a country experiencing an outbreak or have been in contact with an individual with the coronavirus, but many have not been tested.

The CDC has been under fire from members of Congress and public health officials for not keeping up with the demand for test kits at public health labs.

“The slow federal action on this matter has impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic,” Perea-Henze wrote in the letter. 

The agency expects to send out kits that can perform up to 75,000 tests by the end of this week. The CDC did not respond to comment for this story.

A private manufacturer expects to send out 1 million tests by the end of the week to hospitals and commercial labs.

“We want to find people who are testing positive. That’s how you contain it,” Cuomo said Friday. 

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Friday that all states have been sent test kits, but resources will be focused in California and Washington state, where there are large outbreaks. Currently, NYC only has four confirmed cases. 

There are 260 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Updated at 6:37 pm.

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