Pence: Private Labs to Launch Coronavirus Testing With ‘Enormous Capacity’

Emel Akan
By Emel Akan
March 6, 2020COVID-19
Pence: Private Labs to Launch Coronavirus Testing With ‘Enormous Capacity’
Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Coronavirus Task Force hold a press briefing at the White House in Washington, on March 6, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that commercial laboratories would make testing for COVID-19 available to detect and effectively respond to the outbreak amid a nationwide shortage of tests.

“We have been able to provide tests to all the state jurisdictions and labs that have requested it,” Pence said at a press conference, adding that commercial labs have also stepped in to develop tests to meet the future demand.

From March 2 to March 5, the government distributed more than 900,000 tests across the country, Pence said. By Saturday another 200,000 tests and by the beginning of next week, one million more tests are expected to be shipped.

“LabCorp and Quest, two of America’s leading commercial laboratories have announced that tests will be available by Monday,” Pence said, adding that the “enormous capacity” of these labs will make tests available to local doctors, pharmacies, and MedChecks across the country.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surged to 14, with all but one victim in Washington state. And the number of infections increased to 200 across the country.

“The good news is most Americans who have contracted this disease are being treated and recovering and on the road to recovery,” Pence said, urging elderly people to use common sense and caution.

Most Vulnerable People

Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said elderly Americans with underlying conditions are the “most vulnerable to getting the complications of serious disease and even death.”

These underlying conditions, he said, include heart, lung, and kidney disease, and diabetes.

“If you are a person in that category think twice,” before getting on a plane or going to a crowded place, he said.

The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services issued new guidelines recently to protect the nation’s seniors. The new measures include limiting visitors to nursing homes.

“Reassuringly, in South Korea, no one has died under 30,” said Ambassador Debbie Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during a press briefing on March 4. “And the median age in Italy was 81, of those who succumbed. Those who became ill, the median age was 60.”

Hawaii Cruise Ship

Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announced that 21 people on the Grand Princess cruise ship being held off the California coast tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 21 people who tested positive, 19 are crew members, and two are passengers. The ship returned to San Francisco after visiting Hawaii.

Government officials “have developed a plan which will be implemented this weekend to bring the ship to a non-commercial port,” Pence said.

“All passengers and crew will be tested for the virus. Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require additional medical attention will receive it.”

The ship has nearly 1,100 crew members, who are expected to be quarantined on board the vessel, Pence said.

The vice president met with airline industry executives on March 4 to get more data on airline passengers exposed to the disease. He said he would also meet on Saturday with cruise-line executives in Florida to discuss what additional measures these companies can take to improve the health and safety of passengers.

In January, the Trump administration ordered sweeping travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease, barring all foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days from entering the United States.

The administration later expanded the existing ban on travel from Iran in response to the increasing coronavirus cases in that country.

And as of March 3, the administration fully implemented a screening process for travelers from Italy and South Korea. Passengers coming to the United States from all airports in South Korea and Italy are now subject to multiple screenings before boarding a plane.

President Donald Trump formed a Coronavirus Task Force to combat the spread of the disease with an all-of-government approach. He appointed Pence on Feb. 26 to oversee the task force and praised his experience in handling health crises during his time as Indiana governor in 2014. Pence earlier said that the task force would hold a daily press briefing to provide updates.

From The Epoch Times

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