Testing Levels Sufficient With Virus Cases Falling, Giroir Says

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Falling Covid-19 infection rates are “real” and not due to less testing, federal testing head Brett Giroir said Thursday, defending the administration’s response to the pandemic.

Current virus testing levels in the U.S. are sufficient, said Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. He pushed back on suggestions that positive case rates are decreasing because there isn’t enough testing.

The percentage of positive samples for Covid-19 “decreased from 8.7% during week 30 to 7.8% during week 31,” which ended August 1, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research from the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 tracker shows a downward trend in cases for most states, including former hot spots like Arizona and Florida.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a separate event Thursday that “we certainly are not where I hoped we would be” in containing the pandemic. His comments were not specific to Covid-19 testing.

Giroir declined to give a specific goal for how many virus tests should be available in the U.S., saying “a number is meaningless unless it’s used appropriately.”

Strategic testing is more valuable than flooding the market with tests, he said, which is why businesses and colleges shouldn’t do widespread preemptive testing before people return to work or campuses. A negative test could create a “false sense of security” he said.

He did support testing at least 2% of people in states each month, which acts as a “canary in the coal mine” to determine if the virus is spreading.

The HHS invested $6.5 million in two diagnostic labs Thursday, Aegis Sciences and Sonic Healthcare USA, which are expected to make 1 million coronavirus tests a week by early October.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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