U.S. Virus Plan Aims for More Tests in May Than All Done To Date

The Trump administration has released coronavirus testing targets for May, an aggressive expansion that would have some states doubling, quadrupling and even, in the case of Puerto Rico, completing 5.6 times the number they had done through late April.

The White House announced on May 11 that states had set the goals in partnership with the Trump administration, but didn’t release specifics. The breakdown of targets by state was released Sunday as part of a testing plan outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a report to Congress.

The HHS plan calls for about 12.9 million tests this month. States are nearly two-thirds of the way to meeting that goal, with roughly 8.3 million administered as of Monday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer initiative to track virus data. HHS spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comment on the delay in releasing the targets the states had set.

Mass testing is essential to understanding the virus’s spread and quelling outbreaks. The HHS goals highlight the administration’s approach, which has largely placed the responsibility on the states. However experts say that a stronger federal role is required to solve issues like shortages of key materials that are bogging down testing.

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The goals aim for states to test between 2% and 15% of their populations this month, according to the HHS report. Some of the hardest-hit states have the largest targets. New York state’s goal is 1.5 million tests and California’s 1.2 million. Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas have targets of 700,000 or more.

President Donald Trump committed his administration this month to providing certain testing materials to help states meet near-term goals, as well as announcing the distribution of about $11 billion for expanding state-level testing infrastructure.

The Trump administration is distributing 12.9 million swabs and 9.8 million transport media tubes to help meet the goals. It plans to acquire 100 million swabs and 100 million viral transport media vials to further augment supplies this year, according to the report.

It’s part of a $75.5 million Defense Production Act investment in U.S. swab-maker Puritan Medical Products aimed at doubling its monthly capacity, according to the HHS document.

As part of the federal funding, the states are required to supply a testing plan to HHS for May and June as well as the rest of the year. The deadline for May and June testing plans is the end of the month.

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