As coronavirus testing efforts ramp up across the United States, confirmed cases of the virus have seen a dramatic 676 percent increase over the course of just one week.
According to Fox News, official statistics suggested the nation had surpassed the 10,000 case threshold as of Thursday afternoon, up roughly 8,300 from March 12.
Given the rapidly developing nature of the situation, however, Johns Hopkins University’s global coronavirus dashboard confirmed the number of official stateside cases to be as high as 13,159 mere hours after Fox News’ initial report.
Experts had forecast a major spike in cases this week given the wider distribution of coronavirus test kits made possible by an emergency pandemic response bill drafted, passed by a divided Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in a matter of days.
Reported total US coronavirus cases via @CNN:
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) March 19, 2020
Negotiated late last week by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the $100-billion federal relief package also included the release of additional funding for food aid, two weeks of guaranteed paid sick leave and increased paid family and medical leave, according to CNBC.
It was a plan viewed unfavorably by a number of skeptics within the Senate Republican ranks, many of whom found themselves voting to pass the bill Tuesday, however, due in no small part to a verbal whipping from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Gag and vote for it anyway,” McConnell told his GOP colleagues on Tuesday, advocating responses to the bill’s perceived shortcomings come in the form of suggestions for further pandemic relief legislation in order to avoid holding up necessary financial support and testing opportunities for the American people.
High on the list of those communicating with the federal government regarding the requirement for more testing opportunities is Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose home state of New York currently suffers the highest number of cases in the nation.
A longtime Trump critic, Cuomo has continued a shaky relationship with the White House in light of the pandemic, lashing out at the president Monday over suggestions he could “do more” to procure resources for his state.
The governor’s tone changed Wednesday, however, following private telephone communications between the two, in which Cuomo said the president was “fully engaged on trying to help New York” combat its high rate of virus transmission, RealClearPolitics reported.
“We have tested now 22,000,” Cuomo updated the state in a Thursday news conference. “We tested 7,500 people last night. Why are you seeing the numbers go up? Because you are taking more tests. People see those numbers go up, they get nervous, they panic. ‘Look at how many more people have the virus.'”
“That’s not how many more people have the virus, you’re just taking more tests so you’re finding more positives. There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus who we are not testing,” he said.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 19, 2020
Testing is generally conducted at hospitals, but drive-thru testing is being implemented in states like New York.
According to Fox News, only individuals expressing symptoms and approved by their doctor or medical professional are being prioritized for testing. Many asymptomatic individuals potentially exposed to the virus have been turned away and told to continue self-quarantining in order to prevent testing shortages.
“The testing process has been difficult,” disease and prescription specialist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi told the outlet. “Initially the test kits were flawed, and burdensome rules and strict criteria contributed to hospitals and doctors struggling to test widely for the coronavirus. These delays have made it impossible to get a true picture of the outbreak.”
“There are enough tests at hospitals and designated facilities for those that are symptomatic,” Shirazi said.
“The challenge is testing those who have come into contact with someone who has it but they’re not symptomatic.
The president has echoed similar fears in recent days, telling reporters in a White House news briefing Thursday that Americans should listen to their doctor’s word on the matter of testing.
“People who don’t show symptoms and whose doctors say they don’t need it, I would rely on that,” Trump said.
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