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May 12, 2020

The White House wants states to test 2% of their populations for the new coronavirus this month

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    As the number of reported U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus surpassed 80,000, President Trump on Monday announced a plan to help states expand their testing capacity for the virus—a plan that includes distributing $11 billion in funding to states and directly supplying them with testing kit materials.

    Covid-19 weekly webinar: What health care leaders need to know

    US Covid-19 cases surpass 1.3M, death toll tops 80K

    The news comes as U.S. officials as of Tuesday morning had reported 1,354,300 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the country—up from 1,336,700 cases as of Monday morning.

    According to the Washington Post, the daily rate of newly reported cases of Covid-19 in the United States overall has declined since mid-April, but the daily rate of newly reported cases continues to increase in many states, including Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

    As of Tuesday morning, officials also had reported a total of 80,684 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 79,552 deaths reported as of Monday morning.

    US lags in testing for the new coronavirus

    As the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths in the country continue to rise, the United States continues to lag behind in testing Americans for the new coronavirus when compared with other country's testing rates. According to public health experts, a national testing strategy is critical to helping U.S. states safely reopen businesses and ease social distancing measures intended to slow the new coronavirus' spread.

    As of Sunday, the United States had completed nearly nine million tests for the new coronavirus, according to The Atlantic's Covid Tracking Project. That figure is equivalent to about 2.74% of the country's population, the Post reports. In comparison, Canada has conducted testing of about 2.95% of its population, Germany has conducted testing of about 3.35% of its population, and Italy has conducted testing of about 4.31% of its population, according to the Post.

    Meanwhile, the United States continues to be the epicenter of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with the country reporting more Covid-19 cases on its own than the combined total reported by France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

    Trump announces plan to boost US testing capacity

    On Monday, Trump announced a plan to help states increase testing for the new coronavirus by distributing $11 billion for testing efforts to states. Federal policymakers allocated the funding under a recently enacted federal stimulus package.

    Trump administration officials said they would use a formula that takes into account the Covid-19 burden and population-based estimates in states to determine the amount of funding each state will receive.

    According to the Post, a map displayed in the White House Rose Garden during Trump's announcement suggested New York and New Jersey, which are two of the states hit hardest by the country's Covid-19 epidemic, would receive $500 million under the initiative. Meanwhile, California, Florida, Illinois, and Michigan, which also have reported high numbers of Covid-19 cases, would receive between $300 million and $500 million each, the Post reports.

    The administration also will directly provide states with testing kit materials, including swabs, and connect them to manufacturers of chemical reagents and other testing components, according to Bloomberg. The administration will give states 12.9 million swabs and nearly 10 million tubes of chemical reagents, Politico reports.

    With the new resources distributed under the plan, the administration expects states to test at least 2% of their populations for the new coronavirus this month. That would equal at least 12.9 million tests, according to Brad Smith, director of CMS' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

    Officials said the plan requires states to provide updates and report data on their testing strategies to the federal government.

    White House calls on states to test all nursing home staff, residents

    Separately, Vice President Pence during a video conference with governors on Monday said the White House is strongly recommending that states test all nursing home staff and residents for the new coronavirus over the next two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

    According to the AP, which obtained a recording of the call, Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House's coronavirus task force, during the call said, "We really believe that all one million nursing home residents need to be tested within next two weeks as well as the staff."

    A source familiar with the call told The Hill that Pence's comments aimed to encourage states to test nursing home staff and residents, but do not require them to do so.

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) during a press conference on Monday said, "The gist of the call was just this: and that is, encouragement to do more as far as reopening, encouragement to do more and more testing." Justice continued, "All the states now with the guidance of the federal government are going to try to get every person in all nursing homes in this country tested in the next two weeks" (Ketchum/O'Connor, Modern Healthcare, 5/11; Gearan et al., Washington Post, 5/11; Court, Bloomberg, 5/11; Lim/Ollstein, Politico, 5/11; King, FierceHealthcare, 5/11; Freking/Condon, Associated Press, 5/11; Chalfant, The Hill, 5/11; New York Times, 5/12).

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