Surgeon General: We’ve reached a ‘turning point’ in COVID-19 testing

The whole world is gripped by fear about the spread of the novel coronavirus and its accompanying disease, COVID-19. Part of the panic is due to the inadequate testing processes, especially in the U.S. and Italy.

However, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams announced on Monday that the U.S. is reaching a “turning point” in the number of new tests that can be run due to the pivot from CDC testing to state labs and private industry.

Private industry

Adams said during an interview with “Fox & Friends” that “[W]e’ve reached a turning point. Important for people to know that the CDC stood up a test in less than one week for a new virus, so that was a record, but the CDC was never designed to provide hundreds of millions of tests.”

“So, we went from CDC testing, which was slow by almost design, and then we actually stood up 83 different state labs, and you saw testing increase there.”

Adams praised the strides made in a new testing method, explaining that “the turning point was last Thursday when the FDA approved a new rapid throughput test, which will exponentially increase the amount of new tests that can be run. … You’re starting to see more testing at the local level.”

“Again, we’ve reached a turning point, and it’s because of the private industry.”

Dire warning

It wasn’t all good news from Adams on Monday, however. Although there are major strides being made in identifying and isolating COVID-19 cases more quickly, the risk to the public is still alarming, and this is no time to relax strict social isolation precautions.

Adams pointed to Italy as a warning for what the U.S. could face if Americans don’t take the warnings and recommendations seriously.

“We are where Italy was two weeks ago in terms of our numbers, and we have a choice to make as a nation. Do we want to go the direction of South Korea and be really aggressive and lower our mortality rates, or do we want to go the direction of Italy?” Adams asked

“When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy, but there’s every hope South Korea if people actually listen, if people actually social distance.”

Fox News reported that two weeks ago, Italy had only 1,700 reported cases of coronavirus and did not enact rigorous testing and social isolation precautions until much later. That number has increased to 25,000 cases and more than 1,800 deaths today, the most in any country outside of China.

By contrast, South Korea saw its first case of COVID-19 on January 20th, and acted quickly to test large swaths of the population for the disease via drive-through testing locations. The Hill reported that nearly 15,000 people are tested for the virus every day, and because of that, the country has only experienced just over 8,000 cases and 75 deaths.

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