Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a coronavirus adviser to the White House, said that he projects that the US will have the tests required to reopen the economy by late May or early June.
Dr. Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday that he is seeing the US ramping up available tests.
“The issue about tests is that, as we get into the next weeks to several weeks to a month, as we get into May and June, from what we're hearing… we will have a very, very increased production, so that by the time we get to those months, we should have what we need,” Dr. Fauci said on CNN on Tuesday.
While private laboratories are assisting federal and state governments to ramp up coronavirus testing, testing capacity has been hampered by available swabs, reagents, and testing personnel.
On Monday, the White House issued guidelines to states on testing. The guidelines said that the federal government should only be used as a backup to provide testing to the states. But with shortages of swabs and other essential materials, that has created competition between states in securing testing materials. In one case, Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Maryland, ordered 500,000 tests from South Korea.
Although Dr. Fauci agrees with the approach of having private labs take leadership in preparing tests, he said that the federal governments needs to be active in working with states.
“The truth is that we're going in the right direction, but we need to continue to partner in a very active, collaborative way with the states,” Dr. Fauci said. “We need to help them, the same way they need to do the execution.”
Increased testing, experts including Dr. Fauci agree, is a key component to allow states to confidently reopen their economies. Otherwise, there are concerns that a potential rebound of cases would force states to reimplement social mitigation policies, further exacerbating current economic woes.
“Everyone who needs a test, according to the way we're approaching the identification, isolation, contact tracing, keeping the country safe and healthy, that, hopefully, we should see that as we get towards the end of May, the beginning of June,” Dr. Fauci said.
The United States has been conducting anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 tests per day. Although estimates differ on exactly how many coronavirus tests are needed for the economy to reopen, some experts place that number in the millions per day. Harvard University says 5 million tests are needed per day. However, Dr. Fauci pegs that number at closer to 500,000 per day.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that US states that have flattened the curve have enough available tests to move forward with the first of a three-phase reopening.
“I believe, increasingly, governors understand around America that we have a sufficient amount of testing today for every state that qualifies to enter phase one to begin to reopen their economies,” Pence said on Monday.