Officials promise rollout of COVID-19 test sites

President Donald Trump addresses the press at a White House news briefing. At left is Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. At right is Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator. (C-Span via YouTube)

Federal public health officials say they’ll start setting up an expanded system of coronavirus test centers this week, but acknowledge that pent-up demand could overwhelm them.

“We will have a spike in our curve,” Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said today at a White House briefing. She asked the general public to give priority to healthcare workers, first responders and high-risk individuals who need testing.

Birx advised hospitals and laboratories to have enough supplies to process what could be tens of thousands of tests nationwide.

“Make sure you have enough pipette tips, pipetters and all the equipment you need to run this laboratory,” she said. “You know what you need. Make sure you have that, and have that available for these tests.”

A lack of testing capability – due to early policy decisions as well as flaws in the first batches of tests provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – seriously hampered U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s only been in the past few weeks that more capability has come online in Washington state, one of the hotspots for the outbreak’s spread.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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