Labs across the country will be able to process a total of 4,000 coronavirus tests each day starting this week, Trump administration officials said in a press conference on Sunday.
More than a million additional tests will be available this week and officials suggested that processing capacity could be ramped up soon as well.
“We are going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases to a testing regimen that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week and maybe even more,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, who heads coronavirus testing for the Department of Health and Human Services, during a press conference on Sunday.
He added: “This is really a game-changer for us.”
During the same press conference, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that all coronavirus testing will be free for every American, thanks to a deal negotiated in the House of Representatives.
“Because of the good, bipartisan work done in the House of Representatives, now all coronavirus testing is free, and it’s free for every American ― including the uninsured,” Pence said.
Health care facilities will administer tests and prioritize people who need them most, including health care workers, first responders and Americans over the age of 65.
Sunday’s press conference came during a week in which states across the U.S. heightened their responses to the spread of the coronavirus, issuing states of emergency, canceling public gatherings, and urging citizens to stay indoors to avoid contracting or passing along COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The Trump administration has tried to coordinate a belated response to the spreading coronavirus since initially dismissing it as a Democratic Party-led hoax in February. As the numbers of reported cases have risen in recent weeks, the federal government has been unable to provide adequate testing capabilities that would give public health officials a better sense of how far the virus has spread.
Because the majority of Americans cannot currently get tested and, therefore, do not know whether they are carriers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to practice “social distancing” ― or self-imposed isolation ― to curb the spread.
Earlier on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that Americans are not avoiding social contact as much as they should be.
“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said.