The White House coronavirus task force plans to provide states with enough supplies for 8 million coronavirus tests per month to facilitate the reopening of the economy.
A senior administration official said Monday that the Trump administration wants the US “swimming in tests” to facilitate a return to normal.
“The bottleneck is really the ability to collect samples,” the official told reporters.
To hasten an expansion of testing, a Public Health Service team has worked to develop preliminary orders of supplies with governors. Officials say they will send states at least enough swabs and testing medium to test 2.6 percent of a state’s population each month.
“We will have sufficient swabs and medium procured by the federal government and sent centrally to each state, the Indian Health Service and territories to cover their entire testing objectives for the months of May and June,” a second senior administration official said.
“We have not been met with a request that we’ve not been able to meet,” the first official said.
To start, federal officials have a monthly “outer bound” or soft ceiling of “four times the testing you’ve cumulatively done in the last three months in your state,” the second official said.
Right now, there are eight different types of machines that can test samples for the coronavirus. Slower machines have higher capacity. A new rapid-results test operates on a machine with much less daily capacity.
Federal officials recently released maps to governors to identify machines that are not being fully utilized.
Critics of President Trump have expressed concern about reopening the US economy without a dramatic escalation in testing. According to Johns Hopkins University data, about 5.5 million people have been tested in the US, of whom about 1 million tested positive and 55,000 died.
In July and August, the first administration official said federal officials would transition to a traffic-cop role to facilitate testing supplies orders.
“If a state can do 10 times as much as they’ve done before, we want them to do that,” an official said.
A third senior administration official said there would be an emphasis on surveilling at-risk populations and monitoring communities for asymptomatic cases.
“We pulled data all from across the United States … to get us an idea of where an early alert would be,” the third official said. “And that has been as you all knew nursing homes but also combined living arrangements that could be in certain factories including meatpacking plants where people are bunked together, certainly prisons, certainly ships where people are together, and then a real focus on both Native Americans and inner-city populations that may have multigenerational households.”
A White House blueprint document on testing notes that more is needed ahead of a possible flareup in the fall alongside the annual flu.
“In Fall 2020, COVID-19 could co-circulate with influenza or other respiratory viruses,” the document says. “Under this scenario, anyone with an influenza-like illness may be recommended to undergo a testing sequence, a dual antigen test, or a dual nucleic acid test to enable effective diagnoses of COVID-19 even in the context of a co-circulating disease.”