Coronavirus testing czar says US will be able to conduct 50M tests by fall

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Adm. Brett Giroir, the Health and Human Services testing czar, predicted Tuesday that the U.S. would be able to test up to 50 million people a month for the coronavirus by September.

"We project that our nation will be capable of performing at least 40 to 50 million tests per month if needed at that time," Giroir said during a remote hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The U.S. has conducted around 9 million tests since January, when the virus was first detected in the country.

The capacity to test up to 50 million people would far surpass that of the 12.9 million the Trump administration targeted in May. Around 25 million to 30 million of the tests administered would be point-of-care tests, meaning they can be conducted in doctors' offices near the patient and produce quicker results, as opposed to a laboratory.

Committee Chair Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., asked Giroir if all students at the University of Tennessee could receive antigen tests in an effort to resume classes and operations.

"It is certainly possible to test all of the students or it is much more likely that there would be a surveillance strategy done where you may test some of the students at different times to ensure there is no circulation," Giroir said before talking about experimental strategies.

"Wastewater from entire dorm or an entire segment of a campus could be tested to determine whether there's coronavirus in that sewage," he added.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the weekend announced the emergency authorization for an antigen test that can quickly detect coronavirus proteins from the swab of infected patients. Results can be provided in about 15 minutes. The agency expects to authorize similar tests in the future.

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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., criticized the Trump administration over its response to the pandemic and pressed Giroir on if the administration will release numbers and targets required by the CARES stimulus relief package.

"This administration has had a record of giving us broken promises that more tests and supplies are coming and they don't," she said.