Dr. Antony Fauci said COVID-19 testing should at least double in the upcoming weeks before states begin to reopen their economies amid the pandemic.
Fauci, a top immunologist public health expert in the White House coronavirus task force, made the revelation during the annual National Academy of Sciences on Saturday.
‘We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will,’ said Fauci, according to Politico.
He added that the United States currently goes through around 1.5 million to two million tests a week.
Public health officials have called for widespread coronavirus testing in an effort to stop the spread, but the United States has continuously lagged.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (pictured) said the United States needs to at least double COVID-19 testing before states reopen economies
This is compounded by backlogged laboratories where results have been delayed.
State governors and President Trump have been at odds as both parties claim the other bears the responsibility of obtaining tests.
Fauci said that appropriate testing should ‘get those who are infected out of society so that they don’t infect others.’
He added that high rates of positive COVID-19 tests could signal there’s not enough testing being done, as those should account for ‘maybe less than 10 percent.’
The United States has positive rates near 20 percent, and the week that ended April 11 saw an increase of positives from all types of labs.
Our World in Data, an online COVID-19 website by Oxford University, reports that 4.88million tests have been taken in the United States as of April 24.
Pictured: Medical assistant Melanie Zamudio removes her gloves after taking a swab from a patient at a new drive-thru and walk-up coronavirus testing site Saturday in Washington
One World Data reports that the United States has administered 4.88million COVID-19 tests as of April 24
This appeared similar to claims Trump made Saturday that the United States has tested more than five million people.
‘We have now Tested more than 5 Million People. That is more than any other country in the World, and even more than all major countries combined!’ he wrote on Twitter.
Although the United States administered more tests than other countries, Our World Data found that performed more COVID-19 tests per 1,000 people.
However, Fauci cautioned against fixating on the number of tests.
Instead, he suggested public health experts focus on whether ‘you have enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur as you try and ease your way back into the different phases.’
Trump said the United States tested more than five million people for COVID-19
Trump (pictured) received backlash this week after he suggested injecting disinfectant to cure COVID-19
Fauci clarified that his remarks were about active infections, not the antibody tests that can determine if a patient was previously infected.
The United States has 945,976 confirmed cases and at least 53,396 deaths.
Fauci’s comments come after he’s been noticeably absent from the White House’s daily briefings this week.
Since the global disease was first detected in Washington state, Fauci has become a leading and vocal public health expert in President Trump’s coronavirus response.
Fauci is often seen near Trump during daily briefings and COVID-19 press conferences where he updates the public on health developments.
But NBC News reports that Fauci only attended one out of seven daily briefings this week after missing a handful of the 50 some press conferences.
Fauci was no where to be seen on Thursday when Trump suggested using UV light and injecting disinfectant to cure COVID-19.
When speaking with White House officials, Trump said: ‘And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that?
‘By injection inside or almost a cleaning. As you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.
‘So it would be interesting to check that,’ Trump said.
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus on Thursday, in a briefing that caused a PR nightmare for the White House over his comments about disinfectant as a coronavirus cure
‘So that you’re going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds interesting to me,’ he said.
Trump received swift backlash from public health experts, the CDC and Twitter users who lambasted him for propping dangerous – and unfounded – cures into the public spotlight.
The White House pushed back at the criticism and said Trump was being ‘very sarcastic’ when he asked officials to consider the disinfectant route.
‘I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,’ the president said in regards to his comments.
On Friday, Trump walked-off during the daily briefing in a fit of annoyance following the debacle.
White House aids have reportedly discussed curtailing the president’s role in daily briefings after a heap of bad press following Trump’s comments.
Fauci has publicly contradicted the president on public health information, and one administration official suggested the defiance could be why he’s been recently absent.
‘You are here in a certain role, you’ve got to give advice properly,’ the official said.
Task force members are reportedly frustrated with Facui and some were surprised by some of his media interviews.
Fauci (right) attended just one of seven White House daily briefings this week
Pictured: Medical workers conduct tests for COVID-19 at the first drive through testing site in Iowa. Iowa started mass testing Saturday, with a drive through testing site in a parking lot in Iowa
An official said Fauci was missing from daily briefings this week due to other duties.
They said Fauci ‘does have other responsibilities at NIH. Just because he is not at the briefing does not mean he’s not actively involved in task force meetings and briefings.’
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere doubled down on the administration’s claim.
‘Despite the media’s ridiculous efforts to somehow create distance between the president and his top health experts, it is simply fake news,’ he said.
‘President Trump has relied on and consulted with Dr. Adams, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hahn, Dr. Redfield, and many others as he has confronted this unforeseen, unprecedented crisis and put the full power of the federal government to work to slow the spread, save lives, and place this great country on a data-driven path to opening up again,’ he added.
Fauci previously called the marathon events ‘really draining,’ and officials said he is a regular in non-televised meetings before press conferences.
A recent disagreement came Thursday in an interview with Time when Fauci said the country needed to boost testing.
He said: ‘We absolutely need to significantly ramp up, not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them.
‘I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that.’
Trump later pushed back during a press briefing and dismissed Fauci’s advice.
‘I don’t agree with him on that, no, I think we’re doing a great job on testing,’ Trump said.
Pictured: A healthcare worker takes a sample from a woman at a New York State Department of Health COVID-19 antibody testing center at Steve’s 9th Street Market in New York City
On Wednesday, the only day Fauci attended a daily briefing, he contradicted Trump’s claim that COVID-19 ‘may not come back at all’ this year.
Fauci deflated that assertion saying: ‘We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that.’
His sudden absence from briefings have reportedly caused White House aids to worry about Fauci’s relationship with the president.
But experts said Fauci’s 35 year career with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases means he isn’t after Trump’s approval.
Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, told NBC News: ‘If you’re somebody who aspires to have impact in public health as a physician or provider, you should look no further than Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx, which spans administrations.’
‘I think at the end of the day, the president needs Fauci more than Fauci needs any of this.’
The only health official who has made more appearances in White House coronavirus briefings in Dr. Deborah Birx, who was missing from Friday’s conference.
Trump may have taken frustrations with Fauci to Twitter, where he shared a tweet with the hashtag ‘FireFauci’ earlier this month.
Trump (pictured) sparked rumors of Fauci’s dismissal after he shared a tweet with the hashtag ‘FireFauci’
Trump later shrugged off reports of a tiff with Fauci, but the president doesn’t have the authority to fire from his position regardless.
Fauci, a federal employee, could only be sacked ‘for cause.’
Gupta said that Fauci’s dismissal could cause ‘irreparable harm’ in the country’s fight to curb COVID-19.
The concern over tests come as states like Texas and Georgia partially reopened their economies this week.
Texas announced that it would be the first state to re-open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado and Tennessee following suit.
Texas re-opened state parks on April 20 and retailers have been given the OK to re-open on April 24.
Georgia reopened business like hair shops this week and South Carolina opened the doors on shuttered golf courses.
Florida reopened certain beaches last week in Jacksonville.
New Jersey launches ‘game-changing’ saliva-based coronavirus test that could DOUBLE the testing capacity and be key to reopening states’ economies
New Jersey and could be the key to reopening its economy – and those of several other states.
The test, developed by Rutgers University, uses saliva rather than a swab inserted deep into the nose or throat – making it less invasive.
According to the team at Rutgers, the test will be administered to 10,000 people per day by next week.
Between 7,000 and 9,000 are tested in New Jersey every day, meaning the new test double or triple the state’s testing capacity.
‘It’s definitely going to be a game-changer,’ state epidemiologist Dr Christina Tan said at a press briefing on Thursday, according to NJ.com.
Rutgers University in New Jersey has developed a coronavirus test using a saliva swab rather than a nasal or throat swab. Pictured: The newly-approved saliva test being used at a testing site in Edison, New Jersey, April 15
Dr Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, said at Thursday’s briefing that the new test is safer than other tests currently in use.
‘This approach, collecting samples by saliva, decreases exposure to healthcare professionals, increases collection throughout – how quickly you can collect the specimens – quadrupling it,’ he said.
‘Decreases the use of [personal protective equipment], a lot of people have heard about the shortages.’
Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has said that, at a minimum, 15,000 to 20,000 tests would have to be performed a day before he considered re-opening businesses and lifting stay-ay-home orders.
‘I’m not marrying myself to 15,000 or 20,000 either. That’s a bare minimum,’ Murphy said on April 20.
‘We’ve got to be in a completely different place in the next four to six weeks.’
The pilot run of the newly-approved saliva tests occurred at coronavirus drive-thru site for residents of Middlesex County and first responders.
Tests will be available at RWJBarnabas Health network and several locations throughout the state, including walk-in clinics.
Officials hope to administer 10,000 per day, which would double or triple the testing capacity in New Jersey which is between 7,000 and 9,000 per day. Pictured: Medical workers load a patient into an ambulance at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, April 16
In addition to residents, all staff members at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick will be tested.
Murphy also said the saliva tests would be performed on every resident at New Jersey’s five development centers.
This is a ‘huge breakthrough coming from our very own flagship university,’ he said a Thursday’s press briefing. ‘These are among our most vulnerable residents.
Health officials say that after the saliva tests are processed at a lab, results should made available within 24 to 48 hours.
In the US, there are currently more than 891,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 50,000 deaths.