Sen. Patty Murray of Washington on Tuesday said her constituents are seeing delays and confusion in getting tested for coronavirus and that if anyone is in charge at the White House, it “would be news to anyone in my state.”
“And that is completely unacceptable,” Mrs. Murray, a Democrat, told administration officials before the Senate Health Committee.
“This is really a frightening time,” she added. “At least six people in my home state have already died from the virus. I’m told we should expect more.”
The deaths occurred in counties north of Seattle — five in King County and one in Snohomish County. Four of the people who died were residents at a nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, where a number of people have reported symptoms of the disease known as COVID-19.
Mrs. Murray said too many people back home have been unable to get tested and even if they are, it takes too long to get results.
“The administration has had months to prepare for this,” she said.
There were early validation problems with the tests, the senator added, noting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t dispatch new kits until Feb. 27.
CDC officials said they’re making progress.
All state public-health labs should be able to test for COVID-19 by the end of the week, said Anne Schuchat, the principal CDC deputy director.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn also said labs across the nation will have enough kits in hand by the weekend to perform 1 million tests, based on a ramp-up in production from the private sector.
The CDC is tracking over 100 infections in the U.S., though 48 of them are in patients who were repatriated from China and Japan.
Elsewhere, two members of an Atlanta household recently tested positive in Georgia and New York state reported a second infection, in Westchester County.
A New York City school said it closed Tuesday as a precaution after a case was detected “in our community.”
The SAR Academy and SAR High School said it is “important to remain calm” and follow preventive measures.
Anthony Fauci, director for infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said many people who get the coronavirus recover on their own, though 15% to 20% get ill and need care, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems.
He said drugmaker Gilead may know within a few months if its drug — remdesivir — proves to be an effective treatment for COVID-19.
“If it does, the implementation of that would be almost immediate,” Dr. Fauci testified. “But the timetable for treatment is different than the timetable for a vaccine.”
Dr. Fauci said the process of developing a vaccine and making sure it’s safe will take a year to a year and a half.
The coronavirus was discovered in China in December. It causes an illness that is mild in many people but can cause respiratory distress, organ failure and death, especially in older persons or those with preexisting medical conditions.
Dr. Fauci said the mean age of those affected by the disease is 50 and, with some exceptions, very few people below the age of 15 have gotten sick.
So far, the virus has infected roughly 92,000 people around the globe and killed over 3,000.
China’s reported about 80,000 cases, mainly at the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei Province.
South Korea has recorded over 5,000 cases, Italy has seen over 2,000 and Iran is at 2,300 cases, making them a trio of alarming hot spots around the globe.
The White House has banned foreign nationals who’ve visited China or Iran within the past 14 days from entering the U.S., and officials in South Korea and Italy have begun screening all passengers on direct flights to the U.S.