The Trump administration is prepared to send all 50 states enough COVID-19 tests for at least 2% of their populations, an official told news outlets today ahead of the White House press briefing, where Trump is expected to elaborate on the plan, which comes after weeks of public health experts warning that the country needs much more testing in order to safely reopen.
The goal of providing states with more tests is to allow for economic reopening, in which widespread testing has been upheld as a requirement, according to experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The effort will prioritize testing the most at-risk populations: senior citizens and minorities, who are more likely to experience fatal outcomes from the disease, reports Bloomberg.
President Trump will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, where he is likely to expand on this new testing capacity.
The source told Bloomberg that these tests will be self-swabs conducted in parking lots and drive-thrus at pharmacy chains like CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart.
So far, 1.6% of the population—around 5.4 million Americans—have been tested for coronavirus, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
In a Monday state-by-state analysis of COVID-19 testing by Stat and Harvard University, Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said: “You can’t just take the national number and scale test availability to states by their population. You have to base it on the size of the outbreak in a state.”
500,000. Experts say that’s how many daily COVID-19 tests the U.S. will need to conduct in order for people to return to work, according to Bloomberg.
Most states—31 total, plus the District of Columbia—will need to significantly ramp up their COVID-19 testing to “even consider” lifting their stay-at-home orders, according to the Monday analysis by Stat and Harvard University. The report says that the United States is at risk of failing to test at the level needed to gain an understanding of which states can reopen. The report says this is critical to “catch reappearances of the coronavirus before it again spreads uncontrollably.”
The researchers found that testing needs vary greatly on a state-by-state basis, with states like Alaska requiring only 68 to 145 tests per day while hard-hit states like New York need upwards of 100,000 tests per day.
Democratic and Republican governors alike have reported shortages of testing in their states, a key element to reopening as tests determine the spread of coronavirus and determine whether someone should quarantine or navigate the public sphere. Despite the governors’ complaints, President Trump has been adamant that the capacity is sufficient. Additionally, people have complained about the delays with testing, which the Washington Post reports was a result of contamination at the CDC laboratory.