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Home / World News / US states restrict testing, regulator approves rapid-result diagnostic kit

US states restrict testing, regulator approves rapid-result diagnostic kit

More than 325 people have died and 25,000 have been infected in the outbreak that has spread to all parts of the country, with New York, California and Washington states hit the hardest.

world Updated: Mar 22, 2020 22:44 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy is loaded with supplies in support of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response efforts at the naval base in San Diego, California, U.S. March 21, 2020.
U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy is loaded with supplies in support of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response efforts at the naval base in San Diego, California, U.S. March 21, 2020.(Reuters file photo)

American states hit the hardest by the coronavirus are restricting testing only to health workers and those severely ill as the surge in infection and fatalities several strain available resources and the US drug regulator has approved for use the first point-of-care diagnostic kit with dramatically lower turnaround time.

And, US vice-president Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, both tested negative, a spokesperson said. They were tested after a member of the vice-president’s staff had texted positive.

More than 325 people have died and 25,000 have been infected in the outbreak that has spread to all parts of the country, with New York, California and Washington states hit the hardest; New York City has emerged as the “epicenter” of the outbreak.

New York and California, which have issued stay-at-home orders for all but essential services and workers, on Saturday issued orders restricting testing only to health workers and the severely ill to preserve medical supplies essential to combating the outbreak, including testing kits and protective gear.

“Not every single person in the U.S. needs to get tested,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a White House briefing Saturday. “When you go in and get tested, you are consuming personal protective equipment, masks and gowns — those are high priority for the health care workers who are taking care of people who have coronavirus disease.”

There are concerns about depleting medical supplies considered essential to combating the outbreak, such as testing kits, marks, hospital beds, respirators and ventilators. President Donald Trump has involved war-time powers under the Defense Production Act to direct private sector companies to ramp up manufacturing of needed supplies, but has not used it yet.

A shortage of testing kits has been a big concern and regulators have approved a rash of new tests in recent weeks. The lack of enough diagnostic kits has been exacerbated by the time it takes to determine a person is infected or not. There have been been cases, reported on social media, of a person dying in the intervening period.

A diagnostic kit approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday will cut the waiting time dramatically. Manufactured by Cepheid, a California-based company, the test has a turnaround times of 45 minutes, the Washington Post reported, instead of the days its takes for current tests, that involve sending samples to centralized labs.

David Persing, Cepheid’s chief medical and technology officer, told the Post the test is not meant for the “worried well” but to help doctors quickly determine whether or not a patient is infected and prescribe appropriate treatment.