The United States does not yet have the capability to test everyone who thinks they might have the novel coronavirus, let alone the entire population and those who might have had it, things most public health experts say are necessary to determine who can go back to work. Scientists are working on a blood test to see who might have immunity, but that is not yet ready for prime time on a national scale. Trump is pushing his administration to find a way to open the country by May, The Washington Post reports.
When CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Trump how he could talk about sending people out into the world again without such testing, Trump responded with something that sounded more aspirational than factual (a common theme from the White House): “Something that we’ll be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and do massive testing,” he said.
He also said it’s not necessary: “We want to have it and we’re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes.”
When Acosta asked Vice President Pence the same thing, Pence was much more circumspect, implicitly acknowledging the United States does not have that kind of testing capability now nor will it in the near future. He also tried to assuage any concerns that Trump would open the country before public health experts say it’s safe to do so: “No one wants to reopen America more than President Donald Trump. But the president’s told us we need to do it responsibly and we’re going to follow the data.”
2. We have some stats on how many people tested are positive, per age group
Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, shared statistics about who has tested positive, by age group. This data comes from the roughly 2 million Americans who have been able to get a test (which, because of the shortage, is often only for people showing symptoms and in some cases, only for the sickest people).
Birx said the government received stats from 75 percent of those tested and found:
- Of those under age 25 tested: 11 percent were positive
- Of those between 25-45 tested: 17 percent were positive
- Of those between 25-65 tested: 21 percent were positive
- Of those between 65-85 tested: 22 percent were positive
- Of those over 85 tested: 24 percent were positive
She also emphasized that men test positive at higher rates than women (23 percent of men tested were positive compared to 16 percent for women), and she urged men not to tough it out before receiving health care. “To all the men out there, if you have symptoms, you should be tested,” she said.
3. The U.S. is so short on medical supplies, they are considering whether doctors can return to wearing cloth gowns
As opposed to the disposable ones used now. Pence tried to paint this possibility, which he said came from the coronavirus task force, as an innovative one: “It was observed that 20 years ago, most physicians and most surgeons wore cloth gowns every day and laundered them,” he said.
They are asking the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate whether using cloth gowns for procedures would be feasible.
4. There could be a drug to treat the coronavirus in future outbreaks
Coronavirus task force member and infectious disease expert Anthony S. Fauci has been cautious about championing treatments for the coronavirus, unlike Trump.
But on Thursday, Fauci sounded notably optimistic about what he said are several drugs going to clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health (including the anti-malaria drug Trump touts). He said these trials will help them determine whether these drugs are safe and effective and whether they can be used right as someone starts feeling symptoms or to treat someone further down the road.
“We’re doing an awful lot from a scientific standpoint,” he said, “so that when we do get to next year, next fall, next winter, hopefully we’ll have something that we can offer in addition to the very important public health measures.”
It wasn’t clear if he was talking about this fall, when he has said to expect a second wave of infections, or for sometime in 2021.