Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday on Meet the Press that while the U.S. is conducting about 150,000 coronavirus tests per day that the number would be higher if governors activated more labs in their states.
States, meanwhile, have said federal delays are at fault. With more swabs and FDA approval for companies making different formulations of necessary reagents, capacity would increase by two or three-fold.
Doubling or tripling testing from current levels is what it would take to begin safely loosening restrictions, experts have said.
Ohio, among other states, is beginning to lay out plans to reopen the economy in gradual, phased stages. Gov. DeWine yesterday appealed directly to anyone from the FDA watching his interview on Meet the Press for help.
“I could probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight if the FDA would prioritize companies that are putting a slightly different formula together on the extraction reagent kit. We have a worldwide shortage of the materials that go into this. We really need help. Anybody who’s in the FDA watching this, this would really take our capacity up, literally overnight, and that’s what we need to get right in Ohio.”
DeWine said he spoke to the FDA on Sunday afternoon.
I was happy to get a very positive phone call just a short time ago from @US_FDA regarding my comments this morning on @MeetThePress. Watch below.⬇️#InThisTogetherOhio https://t.co/UoJrx6mGpY— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) April 19, 2020
Governors spent the weekend bemoaning the lack of federal assistance for testing.
"The No. 1 problem in America is the lack of testing," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN.
"We've been fighting for testing," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said on CNN. "It's not a straight forward test. We don't even have enough swabs, believe it or not."
President Trump said at Sunday's coronavirus task force press conference that governors will receive further information and guidance from the federal government in a call today.
Pence, who also appeared on Meet the Press and other Sunday shows, put the onus on states to boost testing.
"We believe the testing that we have today, across the country, once we activate all of the labs that can do coronavirus testing, is sufficient for any state in America to move into Phase 1," Pence said on Fox News.
Lab capacity, as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on CNN, is not the problem from the perspective of the states.
“We have the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we are doing but we need some of these supplies. The reagents and the swabs are absolutely essential," Whitmer said. "You can’t process all of these tests if you can’t take the sample and protect it and move forward though testing. And so while our capabilities are there, these important supplies are not. If the federal government would use the Defense Production Act and say, 'We're going to make every swab people need and we're going to expedite creation of the reagents,' we would be able to know how prevalent COVID-19 is. It would take down the risk associated with taking actions to reengage parts of our economy because we would have a lot more data about how prevalent COVID-19 still is in our states."
Trump announced Sunday evening he would use the Defense Production Act to address the shortage of swabs.
"We've had a little difficulty with one so we're calling in, as in the past you know, we're calling in the Defense Production Act and we'll be getting swabs very easily," Trump said. "Swabs are easy. Ventilators are hard."