- US officials had hoped to produce enough coronavirus test kits by Friday to test 1 million people.
- Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said this would not be possible, according to the BBC.
- Instead he hopes the million goal can be met next week.
- The US has been criticized for testing relatively few people for the virus that causes COVID-19.
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The White House has said the federal government will not be able to keep its promise to deliver enough coronavirus test kits for 1 million people by the end of the week.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the federal government’s coronavirus response, made the acknowledgment Thursday while visiting a factory in Minnesota, the BBC reported.
“We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” he said.
The BBC said that later, speaking in Washington, Pence added: “We still have a ways to go to ensure that tests are available.”
The BBC said Pence instead moved the goal to next week, when he predicted kits for 1.2 million people would be available.
The expectation of enough kits for 1 million tests was set Monday by the Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner, Stephen Hahn, who predicted that kits for “close to a million” tests would be in place by the end of the week. Each physical test kit can carry out multiple tests.
Confirmed US coronavirus cases exceeded 200 as of late Thursday. There have been 12 deaths from the disease COVID-19 in the US — one in California and the rest in Washington state, according to figures by Johns Hopkins University.
The delay in testing follows problems with producing the kits. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been designing and manufacturing its own, more complicated test kits in defiance of World Health Organization guidelines, according to a ProPublica investigation.
Manufacturing errors are also thought to have contributed to the delay.
On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC News that the US was “ramping up” testing and said 75,000 tests were available. He added 3,600 people had already been tested.
Distribution of about 200 CDC test kits to “select” laboratories began Thursday, with each one having the capacity to test 700 to 800 patients, according to the CDC. They have been produced under emergency legislation that allows them to be used without clearance or approval by the FDA.
The CDC on Thursday also broadened its criteria for who should be admitted for testing.
The move came a week after the US saw what were believed to be its first “community spread” cases in three states.
The US coronavirus testing response has come under criticism from experts, including William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
He told Business Insider the US was “trotting along” while other countries raced ahead with the measures.