Coronavirus Updates: U.S. Will Drop Limits on Testing, Pence Says.
President Trump was weighing more restrictions on travelers arriving from abroad. The U.S. death toll rose to nine, including two who died last week and were later confirmed to have been infected.
Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was lifting all restrictions on testing for coronavirus, and would be releasing new guidelines to fast-track testing for people who fear they have the virus, even if they are displaying mild symptoms.
“Today we will issue new guidance from the C.D.C. that will make it clear that any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctor’s orders,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House.
The federal government has promised to significantly ramp up testing, after drawing criticism for strictly limiting testing in the first weeks of the outbreak. But health care supply companies and public health officials have cast doubt on the government’s assurances, as complaints continue that the need for testing remains far greater than the capacity.
“The estimates we’re getting from industry right now — by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed,” the head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, said at a White House briefing on Monday.
But some companies developing tests say their products are still weeks away from approval.
And even if a million test kits were available, public health laboratories say they would not be able to process nearly that many within a week. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that public health labs currently can test 15,000 people daily, though that figure is expected to grow.
The F.D.A. said that Dr. Hahn was taking into account the anticipated increased production of test kits by an outside manufacturer, Integrated DNA Technologies, which is now selling kits to the federal government and other buyers.
The C.D.C. botched the first attempt to mass produce a diagnostic kit, a discovery made only after hundreds of kits had been shipped to state laboratories. A promised replacement took several weeks, and still did not permit state and local laboratories to make final diagnoses.
“Right now, I’d say we’d need more capacity,” Dr. Hahn said at the White House briefing.