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WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has declared the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency. It’s affecting thousands of people across the United States, has killed dozens so far, and health experts warn it will only get worse in the coming days, weeks and maybe even months. Health professionals say there aren’t enough COVID-19 tests for everyone who needs them, leaving decision makers largely in the dark about the scope of the problem and how to contain it.
U.S. PIRG is calling on Adm. Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health who was recently appointed head of the government’s COVID-19 testing response, to immediately adopt the plan put forward by former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Kessler, MD. The plan would help ensure that testing capacity is ramped up over the next seven days--a crucial window in which we may be able to limit the severity of the outbreak--so that anyone who needs a test will get a test.
“You can’t fight a fire if you don’t know where it is. We must have greatly expanded testing as soon as possible,” said David. R. Sherman, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Washington.
The plan includes four crucial provisions:
Expand testing locations by granting universities and private institutions the ability to test, using drive-through testing, and getting Department of Defense medics to staff mobile testing units.
Expedite testing by directing UPS, Amazon, FedEx and USPS to coordinate on shipping.
Improve data management by getting Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and others to consult on managing the huge flow of new data.
Communicate clearly by coordinating with the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other medical experts to give clear guidance on who needs a test, where to get the test, and what to make of the results.
Beyond Commissioner Kessler’s recommendations, U.S. PIRG is calling on Adm. Giroir to increase the amount of test kits sent out into the field, and ensure that each testing location has the necessary tools to process the results swiftly.
“The sooner we can get a more accurate picture of the COVID-19’s spread, the more effectively we can deal with it,” said Matt Wellington, the director of U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns.
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