States ready to conduct more than 12.9M coronavirus tests in May

2020 05 11 23 50 9621 Lab 2019 Coronavirus Test 400

U.S. states will have the tests and lab supplies they need to conduct a total of more than 12.9 million coronavirus tests in May, covering more than 2% of the population, White House officials said during a coronavirus press briefing on May 11.

Through funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the federal government is delivering $11 billion for the sole support of testing to states. To date, more than 9 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in the country. Associations of lab medicine professionals have cited the lack of supplies for testing as a barrier to the ramp-up of testing to allow reopening of the economy.

During the first week of May, 1.9 million tests were conducted, and the plan is to have at least 12.9 million conducted for this month, covering at least 2% of the population in every state. In 31 U.S. states, the positive rate is lower than 10%, which reflects enough testing to enter the first phase for reopening, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health, said during the briefing.

Giroir also cited the importance of the clearance on May 9 of Quidel's antigen test, noting that antigen testing "although complex is much less complex than the nucleic acid testing that we have had." Soon Quidel will be making 9 million tests every month, which will transform the landscape to a certain degree, said Giroir, who has been coordinating the government's testing efforts.

Brad Smith, deputy administrator and director at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), discussed the importance of ensuring labs have enough specimen collection supplies, machines, and lab supplies to reach testing goals. The government has purchased more than 12 million swabs and 10 million media to support testing efforts in states in May and has several million in reserve if states exceed goals. Commercial companies will produce more than 25 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) extraction kits for May, he added.

"So we feel very confident that states will not only have specimen collection supplies and the machines but also extraction kits and the reagents they need to be able to hit or potentially exceed testing goals," Smith said.

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