Health officials said Sunday they planned to ramp up coronavirus testing by tens of thousands of additional people a week, beginning this week.
Vice President Mike Pence and other health officials said two factors will allow them to increase testing capacity dramatically in coming days: Some 2,000 labs coming online across the nation to process tests and high through put tests that can be used for drive-through or walk-up test centers.
“We are now in a new phase of testing,” said Adm. Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary of health at Department of Health and Human Services. “That is really a game-changer for us.”
Giroir said gear and federal health care workers would begin shipping out Monday.
Health officials said they were focusing those tests on two groups: Healthcare workers and first responders, as well as those who are 65 and older with a respiratory symptom and a fever of at least 99.6 degrees. The officials pleaded Americans to help prioritize those two groups.
“As we expand testing resources… it’s important the tests are available for the people most in need,” Pence added.
Health officials stressed that an increase in testing would likely bring about a spike in confirmed cases: “The worst is yet ahead for us,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The U.S. had 3,244 confirmed coronavirus cases across 49 states as of Sunday night, with more than 70 reported deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.