The White House had previously said that they expected to test around one million Americans by the end of the week

By Julie Mazziotta
March 06, 2020 03:26 PM
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The U.S. will not be able to meet the previously promised goal of testing around one million Americans for the new coronavirus by the end of the week due to a lack of testing kits, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday.

“We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” Pence said to reporters at a press conference, according to CNN.

Pence, whom President Donald Trump appointed as the U.S.’s COVID-19 coronavirus task force leader, said that they are able to test “those that we believe have been exposed, for those who are showing symptoms,” but they do not have enough to meet his earlier promise that “any American can be tested.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the U.S. would instead have the ability to test 75,000 people by the end of the week, according to Bloomberg.

coronavirus testing
Coronavirus testing in Moscow
| Credit: Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty

As of Friday, there are 231 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., and 14 people have died. However, experts believe that the number of cases is actually much higher, and the lack of testing kits has stopped people from getting checked for the virus.

A report in The Atlantic on Friday estimated that just 1,895 Americans across the U.S. have been tested, based on interviews with public health officials and published data. Of those 1,895, a reported 10 percent tested positive for the disease.

The lack of testing kits is partially due to contamination of some kits the Centers for Disease Control started manufacturing in February. The CDC has since corrected the error, and kits are going out now, but not at the rate needed. The Trump administration said Saturday that commercial and academic institutions will be allowed to create their own testing kits to increase testing capacity, according to The New York Times.

Along with the lack of test kits, few Americans have been tested because of previous CDC restrictions. Until the last week, only those who had recently traveled to China or a close contact of someone who had was allowed to be tested, according to the CDC. They are now allowing anyone to get tested if a doctor deems it necessary.

But social media users have reported having trouble getting tested. A nurse currently quarantined in northern California said that her doctor and local health officials agreed that she should be tested after caring for a coronavirus patient and developing symptoms, but the CDC would not approve her test.

“They said they would not test me because if I were wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn’t have the coronavirus,” the nurse wrote in an open letter shared by National Nurses United. The nurse said that the CDC later recanted, and said she could be tested but other possible patients would be prioritized over her.

In a press conference on Friday, Pence said they expect to have enough kits to test 4 million Americans by the end of next week.