Mike Pence: More coronavirus test kits are on the way

The Trump administration is working to make more coronavirus testing kits available, Mike Pence said Saturday.

The vice president sought to reassure Americans that the Trump administration has the outbreak of COVID-19 — and a perceived shortage of testing equipment — under control, telling Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro on her self-titled program that more testing kits would be on the way Monday from two commercial laboratories. Pence also maintained that most Americans have no reason to panic, even as more cases pile up in a number of states.

“The biggest news this week was that the president brought together the leaders of the top commercial laboratories in the country, huge businesses,” Pence told Pirro, according to Fox. “And he said we need you to work together to put together the tests. And at the end of this week, two of the largest commercial laboratories in America said that they would have a test ready to go to market on Monday. That’s real leadership.”

More tests coming

There are now at least 22 deaths in America from COVID-19 and more than 500 cases of the virus, according to CNBC, with California, Washington, and New York among the hardest hit states. But as the coronavirus disease gains a foothold in more than 30 states, concern that a lack of testing could be hiding the true extent of the spread has fueled criticism of the Trump administration’s response.

Striking an optimistic note, Pence said Saturday that more testing will soon be available as commercial laboratories step in to help state labs respond to the crisis. The tests will consist of a cotton swab that takes up to six hours to analyze, he said. As CNBC notes, the new private tests, unlike tests from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) and state tests, are not free.

The vice president recommended seeking a test, which requires a doctor’s approval, if a person experiences flu-like symptoms after coming into contact with a known carrier of the disease. While heralding progress made, Pence added that Trump has made testing a priority since day one, with a focus on areas like Seattle, the core of the U.S. spread.

“I want your viewers to know that as we’ve been ramping up the tests, since the coronavirus first really came ashore in the United States, that we’ve been focusing tests at the point of the need where states have requested them,” the vice president told Pirro, according to Fox. “State labs said they needed them, and particularly in the Seattle area and in parts of California that have seen multiple coronavirus cases and tragically, families that have seen the loss of life.”

Risk remains low

Pence’s message comes amid criticism of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19, including mixed messages about testing. Top health officials acknowledged last week that the Trump administration was behind Pence’s target of 1.5 million tests by the end of that week, something Pence admitted candidly, even as they expressed optimism that they would soon overcome early challenges — with help from private labs — that followed a botched rollout from the CDC, Politico reported.

As testing escalates, Pence stuck to the message that the risk to the general public remains low. A majority of Americans will not contract COVID-19, and those who do get it will likely recover, he told Pirro on Saturday.

“The good news is that the risk to the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low,” Pence said, according to Fox. “And even for those who contract the virus, the vast majority other than a small few percent of the top will go through flu-like symptoms. In some cases, serious. But they’ll recover.”

Time to reconsider?

Still, Pence did not downplay the risk to the most vulnerable Americans. Echoing National Institute of Health official Anthony Fauci, Pence said that older Americans and Americans with serious health conditions should take special precautions to avoid getting infected. Fauci, for his part, has urged the most susceptible Americans to avoid large social gatherings and postpone any air travel or cruise ship vacations, NBC News reports.

“This might be the time to reconsider certain activities,” Pence said Saturday, according to Fox.

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