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The U.S. Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is holding a hearing Thursday to question top health officials about the state of coronavirus testing in the U.S.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, is scheduled to testify along with Dr. Gary Disbrow, acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
The U.S. has run more than 7.7 million coronavirus diagnostic tests as of Thursday, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. The most tests the nation has run on a single day was 314,182 on April 22, according to the volunteer project designed to track testing data launched in March by The Atlantic.
State officials have previously lamented shortages of supplies necessary to ramp up testing, including the test kits themselves, swabs and reagents, which are chemicals needed to analyze tests. Due to scarcity, cities such as New York City have have to prioritize testing for first responders and patients in the hospital. Limited testing means health officials can’t monitor the spread of the virus throughout the general population.
The capacity to test broadly throughout the population for Covid-19 will be key to preventing a resurgence of the virus as states ease restrictions and reopen businesses, public health specialists and state officials have repeatedly said.
Companies such as test manufacturer Roche have been rapidly increasing capacity to conduct serological, or antibody, tests, which can indicate whether a person has had Covid-19 and was either asymptomatic or recovered. However, public health specialists have cautioned that such tests should not be used for individual diagnosis.
Covid-19 has infected more than 1,228,609 people across the U.S. and killed at least 73,431 people in the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.