Up to a million people could be tested for coronavirus by the end of week, the FDA said Monday, as cases across the US rose to more than 100 and health officials warned that the number will keep climbing.
Cases of the virus have now been reported in 12 states — the majority of them in California and Washington state, where six people have died.
About a quarter of the current cases were likely transmitted through US communities, officials have said, meaning they were not travel-related.
“My concern is as the next week or two or three go by, we’re going to see a lot more community-related cases,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a news conference Monday. “That’s of great concern.”
The number of cases has been climbing as new guidelines from health officials gave more labs the go-ahead to conduct tests. Faulty kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially led to delayed and inconclusive results.
Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration further expanded who could test for the virus by allowing additional labs to develop their own tests for the virus. The move, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said, would enable academic centers and private companies to develop and use tests.
He said up to a million tests will likely be conducted by the end of this week.
“We believe this policy strikes the right balance during this public health emergency,” Hahn said in a statement. “We will continue to help to ensure sound science prior to clinical testing and follow-up with the critical independent review from the FDA, while quickly expanding testing capabilities in the U.S.”
With more labs testing for the virus, the CDC stopped publishing the number of patients tested in the country — a figure it had so far kept track of on its website. In an email to CNN Tuesday, the agency said, “Now that states are testing and reporting their own results, CDC’s numbers may not represent all of the testing being done nationwide.”
Cases climb, officials say risk still low
Meanwhile, state and health officials maintain there is no need to panic.
“We’ve seen an increase of cases in the United States over the weekend,” US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Monday. “I want folks to understand that we knew this was coming, we told folks that this was going to happen and it is why we’ve been preaching preparedness from the very start.”
He added, “Caution is appropriate, preparedness is appropriate, panic is not.”
Of the 105 cases, at least 45 are repatriated residents from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which docked in Japan in February after an outbreak on board and quarantine. At least 18 cases were confirmed in Washington state, with six deaths.
Four of those who died, officials said, were residents of Life Care Center, a long-term nursing facility in a suburb of Seattle. More than 50 residents and staff members were experiencing symptoms and were tested for the virus, King County health officer Jeffrey Duchin said Monday.
“Current residents and associates continue to be monitored closely, specifically for an elevated temperature, cough and/or shortness of breath,” officials said in a statement on the Life Care website. “Any resident displaying these symptoms is placed in isolation. Associates are screened prior to beginning work and upon leaving.”
Cases have also been detected in states including Illinois, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oregon, Georgia and Florida.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the state’s first case was a 39-year-old health care worker who recently returned from Iran and is now in home isolation with her husband.
The woman, Cuomo said, has not used public transportation since she returned to the US.
“Our disease detectives have already identified close contacts of the patient, who may have been exposed, and will take appropriate measures to prevent the spread fo COVID-19,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement. “Despite this development, New Yorkers remain at low risk for contracting COVID-19. As we confront this emerging outbreak, we need to separate facts from fear and guard against stigma and panic.”
Twenty cases of the virus have been reported in California, the most of any state.
In Northern California, two more cases were confirmed Monday, according to Santa Clara County’s health department, bringing the county’s total to nine.
Alameda County and Solano County also each had a resident test positive for the virus, the counties’ health departments said in a news release Sunday.
Both are health care workers who were exposed to a patient at UC Davis in Sacramento, the release said.
More than 120 UC Davis health care staff went in self-quarantine after being possibly exposed to the patient last week. That case sparked a change in testing guidelines by the CDC after the patient remained untested for days while hospitalized because they didn’t meet existing guidelines.