WASHINGTON – In the first-ever virtual Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee roundtable, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) stressed the importance of massively increasing the nation’s daily testing capacity in order to safely reopen America’s economy.
You can watch Senator Hassan’s full questioning here.
Senator Hassan began her questioning by saying, “What I would like to focus on is not a binary choice between opening our economy and having more people get COVID-19, some of whom will terribly and tragically die from it, or stay in a lockdown forever. I think there is another path and it is the path that public health experts have been talking to us about, which is how do we implement public health tools, use the right kind of public health tools, to reopen safely, protecting life as well as livelihood.”
Senator Hassan went on to ask Dr. Tom Inglesby, Director for the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, how many tests the United States would need to perform on a daily basis in order to safely reopen the economy.
Dr. Inglesby responded, “Our estimate at our center is that given the number of people that we believe have been infected in the country that have not been counted, we believe we need to scale up testing by an order of five times or so daily, so that would be about a million tests a day.”
When asked by Senator Hassan when he thinks the United States could get to a million tests per day, Dr. Inglesby said that manufacturers are getting close to producing enough tests a day to reach that goal, however misdistribution of testing materials to states and a lack of reagents and swabs have hindered the ability of medical professionals to scale up testing.
Lastly, the Senator highlighted the importance of increasing public health measures like contact tracing in order to protect Granite Staters and all Americans from contracting this deadly disease once more parts of the economy reopen.
“In order to re-open in a way that keeps employees, customers, and families safe, we need to be able to contain these types of outbreaks before they become widespread,” Senator Hassan said. “And that requires support beyond diagnostic testing for people with symptoms.”
Dr. Inglesby agreed, “All countries in the world who have done well against COVID-19 so far had very strong public health capacity and the ability to do contact tracing and to isolate cases and then quarantine contacts and track them over two weeks.”
Widespread access to testing is key to reopening the economy and addressing this pandemic, and Senator Hassan has been pushing the administration to ramp up the production and distribution of COVID-19 tests as well as necessary medical supplies. Senator Hassan recently called on the Trump administration to develop a comprehensive national strategic plan of action to ensure states have sufficient tests to safely re-open. Senator Hassan also joined her colleagues in introducing legislation that lays out a framework for an effective COVID-19 response by federalizing and adding critical oversight and transparency to the supply chain for medical supplies and equipment.