Under heavy fire, Trump administration takes steps to expand coronavirus testing

Officials also announced they were giving nearly $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid covid-19 tests that could determine whether a person is infected within an hour.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services assigned Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, to coordinate all covid-19 testing efforts among federal public health agencies, including the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health departments and public and private clinical laboratories.

The Trump administration announced the measures a day after a particularly harsh drubbing of federal health officials at congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. At one House hearing, Antony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged the system for testing Americans for coronavirus is “not really geared to what we need right now … That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

The FDA also is giving New York state the ability to authorize certain public and private labs to test for the virus under the aegis of the state health department, without first getting federal approval.

Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced he was moving ahead to contract with 28 private labs in New York. “We’re not in a position where we can rely on the CDC or the FDA to manage this testing protocol,” the governor said.

Cuomo said that he told the private labs they should “get up, get running and start moving forward with testing.” The state’s health department has a preexisting relationship with these labs, which Cuomo says has the experience with virology to get the testing done.

In addition, the FDA authorized a covid-19 test developed by the manufacturer Roche, making it the third diagnostic test approved for use in the outbreak.

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