As a top federal health official publicly acknowledged on Thursday the difficulty encountered by Americans in getting tested for the Coronavirus, there seemed to be no immediate solution to the bottleneck, as stories popped up from around the nation of people who felt they were sick - but could not get a test.
"The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a hearing. "Do I think we should be? Yes. But we're not."
Fauci was responding to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who told top federal health care officials of a nurse who had been put under a quarantine after treating a Coronavirus patient - but she was unable to get a test.
Those type of stories were not hard to find on Thursday.
“The number of tests in Massachusetts were said to be so scarce that even people who were in close contact with some of the dozens who tested positive at a recent Biogen conference have not been given the test.” https://t.co/mRGcxQulWc— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) March 13, 2020
ER doc described 2 recent patients in enough respiratory distress to be admitted to the hospital, tested negative for flu and 20 common viruses, had CT scans consistent with Covid-19. State denied them both testing. Doc: “It made me realize that they weren’t testing anyone.” https://t.co/q3rgzpWTH6— emma brown (@emmersbrown) March 12, 2020
Dear @Surgeon_General Adams: You went on national TV a few days ago and said doctors who order #coronavirus tests for their patients will not be denied. Multiple doctors have now contradicted you. Can you clarify? https://t.co/4EueG0MYNt— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 13, 2020
The testing struggles led House Democrats to make it one of their main items in a legislative package being hashed out on Thursday between the Congress and the White House.
In a letter to House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's first bullet point was on a plan to provide 'free Coronavirus testing for everyone who needs a test, including the uninsured.'
Lawmakers were especially aggravated by news that members of the NBA's Utah Jazz basketball team were able to be quickly tested for the Coronavirus, while many others are unable to get that test.
"It almost seems like the more wealthy and powerful you are, the more able you are to access a test," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
"Trump says anyone who wants a test can get a test. Not true," said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). "Top infectious disease doctor says our testing system is failing. Believe the doctor."
At a Thursday hearing, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) put health officials through the ringer on making those Coronavirus tests free.
I did the math: a full battery of coronavirus testing costs at minimum $1,331.— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 12, 2020
I also did the legal research: the Administration has the authority to make testing free for every American TODAY.
I secured a commitment from a high-level Trump official that they’d actually do it. pic.twitter.com/RmolCtmNbG
At the White House, reporters peppered President Trump with questions about testing.
"They have a million tests out now," the President said in the Oval Office. "And, frankly, the testing has been going very smooth."
That answer was at odds with his top health officials, and the stories coming in from around the country.
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