Fauci confident US will double coronavirus testing capacity over next several weeks
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Saturday that he is confident the U.S. will be able to double its coronavirus testing capacity over the next several weeks, something he stressed is needed to safely reopen portions of the economy.
Fauci said in a webcast hosted by the National Academy of Sciences that that the U.S. is currently averaging between 1.5 million and 2 million tests per week.
“We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will,” Fauci said. “Testing is an important part of what we’re doing, but it is not the only part.”
Leading health officials have emphasized that the U.S. must have widespread testing availability and a comprehensive contact-tracing program in place before states begin reopening. Fauci said that this system is needed in order to avoid another outbreak.
“You need enough tests so when you’re doing what we’re trying to do right now, which is trying to ease our way back, that you can very easily identify, test, contact trace and get those who are infected out of society so they don’t infect others,” he said, adding that positive test results should account for less than 10 percent of tests administered.
High rates of positive results generally mean that not enough individuals are getting tested, Fauci said.
President Trump said earlier this month that the U.S. had reached the testing capacity to allow states to begin gradually reopening once they saw a consistent drop in COVID-19 cases over a period of 14 days. Though the comments were quickly met with with pushback from some governors.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who is also chairman of the National Governors Association, said that the statement was “absolutely false.”
Fauci also said in an interview with Time Magazine last week that the U.S. needed to “significantly ramp up” its testing capacity in order to effectively contain the virus.
“We’re doing better and I think we’re going to get there, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
While addressing the issue on Saturday, Fauci cautioned against getting “fixated” on the amount of testing kits available. He said it’s more important to ensure “you have enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur as you try and ease your way back into the different phases.”
The U.S. has confirmed more than 939,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the diseases caused by the coronavirus, and about 53,900 deaths from it, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.
Some states began reopening portions of their economy, including parks, beaches and restaurants, over the weekend.
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