A CDC worker collects biomaterial from suspected 2019-nCoV patients for nucleic acid tests in a hotel for isolated people in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2020.
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More than 15,000 coronavirus testing kits are in the mail this weekend en route to health professionals, according to Vice President Mike Pence.
There has been a concern that capacity is limited across the country to conduct tests amid a potential epidemic. The latest numbers show only 472 people so far have been tested in the U.S, according to the CDC. On Saturday, the first death in the U.S. from the virus was confirmed in Washington state.
“The FDA has approved a testing regime that state and local officials can be using,” Pence said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added the government is working with another “commercial provider” to send another 50,000 kits out. He did not provide details on the timing of when those kits would be finished.
“More importantly, we have established a process in a number of cities across the country — where if someone presents in the hospital with a respiratory ailment, we want them also tested for coronavirus,” Pence said. “We are going to move a lot of volume.”
“We think we have addressed the issue,” the vice president said.
U.S. health officials said Friday that federal agencies were increasing coronavirus testing capabilities at state and local labs, and were planning to streamline a process for the private development of test kits. So far, more than 86,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide and at least 2,979 people have died, the overwhelming majority of them in China.
Pence late last month was put in charge of the U.S. response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
On Sunday, he again urged Americans that they do not need to go out and buy masks to try to prevent them from catching the virus. He said the U.S. has about 43 million face masks stockpiled today, but those need to go to health-care providers first and foremost. The government has also contracted 3M to manufacture another 35 million masks a month starting immediately, Pence said.
The risk to Americans of coming down with the coronavirus remains “low,” Pence said.