- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that 15,000 testing kits for the coronavirus have been rolled out to health-care facilities as the nation mobilizes to test, treat and contain the virus with the potential to spiral into an epidemic.

Fewer than 500 people in the United States have been tested so far for the illness, which killed its first U.S. victim on Saturday, but Mr. Pence emphasized that “we’re ready.”

“I was informed by our team in just the last 48 hours that we’re going to see 15,000 kits, they’re in the mail, they’re rolling out, we’ve approved a process for local testing,” Mr. Pence said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We think we’ve addressed the issue.”

He also said the government has signed a contract with 3M to produce another 35 million facemasks per month “starting immediately,” and that the country has about 43 million facemasks stockpiled.

At the same time, he emphasized that it was unnecessary for symptom-free Americans to wear masks, which are needed for health-care providers.

“I want to say to your viewers, though, it is not necessary for Americans to go out and buy masks,” Mr. Pence said. “We want to make sure that the people that are treating people that have contracted the coronavirus have the masks and the gloves, and we’re working very energetically to accomplish that.”

Mr. Pence, who heads the U.S. effort to combat the virus, also said he wanted to stress to the public that “we’re ready.”

“We’re ready. And this is an all-hands-on-deck effort, whether it be testing kits, or whether it be medical devices or protective gear for our health-care providers,” he said.

So far more than 87,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the flu-like disease. Of those, more than 42,000 have recovered and 2,995 have died.

In the United States, 71 people have been confirmed or presumed positive for the virus, which has killed one person, a Washington state man with underlying medical conditions.

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