The US states hit the
hardest by the coronavirus outbreak are struggling
to make testing for the virus widely available.
"The system is not really
geared to what we need right now ... That is a
failing. Let's admit it," Fauci told a House panel.
"The idea of anybody getting it easily the way
people in other countries are doing it, we're not
set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But
New York and
Washington, the states hit the hardest by
the coronavirus outbreak, are struggling to
make testing for the virus widely available,
and local officials estimate it could take
weeks more to reach peak testing capacity.
While over 1,270 people have been confirmed to
have the virus in the
United States - and at least 38 have died -
according to official data, experts estimate the
real number of cases may be far greater.
An unidentified flaw in test kits distributed by
the federal government in February, which gave some
false results, has set the country back in testing
for the virus and containing an outbreak that has
infected more than 121,000 people worldwide.
Boosting testing is crucial, disease experts say,
to assessing the scope of the US outbreak and
identifying where it is spreading most rapidly.
Vice President Mike Pence said on March 4 that
roughly 1.5 million tests would be available by the
end of that week, while President
Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that
"anyone who wants a test, gets a test".
But more than a week later, the ramp-up of
creating testing kits has been much slower due to
regulatory hurdles at the federal and state level,
as well as logistical and technical challenges,
healthcare providers, public health officials
and test makers.
Nowhere illustrates the constraints on testing
more than an outbreak at the Life Care Center
nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, which alone
accounts for 19 of 24 coronavirus-related deaths in
Despite huge concern over how quickly the virus
could spread there, about 150 of the 180 staff have
not been tested. Life Care Center spokesman Tim
Killian said the problem was a lack of kits to test
Vanessa Phelps, whose 90-year old mother is a
resident at the nursing home, was tested twice
for coronavirus in a single week because she had
been a frequent visitor. She cannot understand
why all people affiliated with Life Care have
not undergone testing.
"If they don't test
everyone, one worker could still have it and be
passing it around because people are still
dying," said Phelps, who ultimately tested
The state has increased capacity to about
1,000 tests a day at the University of
Washington School of Medicine, and local
officials say they are ready to help.
President Trump has been accused of initially
downplaying the threat of the virus.
Under pressure, Trump announced on Wednesday
that he was banning travel to the US from most
of Europe beginning on Friday, causing anger and
confusion across Europe.
SOURCE: Reuters news agency
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