White House News Conference (March 13) Described New Drive-Through Testing Procedure For COVID-19. Will It Be Available In LB And If So, When?
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(March 14, 2020, 5:30 a.m.) -- Yesterday (March 13), LBREPORT.com streamed live and reported in our text coverage on a White House news conference at which President Donald Trump described a new drive-through testing procedure he said will enable wirespread testing and faster results for the COVID-19 virus. Among those describing the new drive-through testing protocol was Dr. Deborah Birx, MD, Whihte House COVID-19 Coordinator and previously US Global AIDS Coordinator (since 2014) under President Obama. Also mentioning the potential significance of the new procedure and other measures was infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. During Q & A, Vice President Pence also discussed it.
LBREPORT.com provides a transcript below of what was said. At dawn Saturday (March 14), LBREPORT.com asked (via email) the City's Joint Information Center what, if anything, Long Beach officials have been told about the drive through testing procedure, by whom, and when if at all it might be available in Long Beach. A response is pending.
Below is a transcript of portions of the March 13 White House news conference on the matter:
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THE PRESIDENT: ...
Ten days ago, I brought together the CEOs of commercial labs at the White House and directed them to immediately begin working on a solution to dramatically increase the availability of tests. Other countries have called us and worked with us, and they’re doing similar things or will be doing similar things.
As a result of that action, today we’re announcing a new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus. We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly, and conveniently. But we don’t want people to take a test if — if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it. And we don’t want everyone running out and taking. Only if you have certain symptoms.
Using federal emergency authorities, the FDA approved a new test for the virus. We did this within hours after receiving the application from Roche — a process that would normally take weeks. We therefore expect up to a half a million additional tests will be available early next week. We’ll be announcing locations probably on Sunday night.
I want to thank Roche, a great company, for their incredible work. I’d also like to thank Thermo Fisher. The FDAís goal is to hopefully authorize their application within 24 hours — it’ll go very quickly; it’s going very quickly — which will bring, additionally, 1.4 million tests on board next week and 5 million within a month. I doubt we’ll need anywhere near that.
At the same time, we’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-thru tests available in the critical locations identified by public health professionals. The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.
I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.
We have many, many locations behind us, by the way. We cover the — this country in large part. So the world, by the way — we’re not going to be talking about the world right now. But we cover very, very strongly our country. Stores in virtually every location.
Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now. They’ve made tremendous progress. Our overriding goal is to stop the spread of the virus and to help all Americans who have been impacted by this.
Again, we don’t want everybody taking this test; it’s totally unnecessary. And this will pass. This will pass through, and we’re going to be even stronger for it. We’ve learned a lot. A tremendous amount has been learned.
I want to thank Deborah Birx, and I want to ask her maybe to come up and say a few words as to what’s happening. Dr. Birx is a highly respected person. I’ve gotten to know her very well over the last six days. And what we’ve done is rebuild something that was very old, very old-fashioned, somewhat obsolete. Certainly obsolete when it comes to the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.
Dr. Birx, please. Thank you, Deborah.
DR. BIRX: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.
I think you know — at the beginning of this epidemic, HHS, through CDC, proactively developed an assay built on the existing flu surveillance system. That surveillance system was then converted to diagnostic system.
But last Tuesday, seeing the spread of the virus around the globe, the President realized that our current approach to testing was inadequate to need — to meet the needs of the American public. He asked for an entire overhaul of the testing approach. He immediately called the private sector laboratories to the White House, as noted, and charged them with developing a high-throughput quality platform that can meet the needs of the American public.
We are grateful to LabCorp and Quest for taking up the charge immediately after the meeting and within 72 hours bringing additional testing access, particularly to the outbreak areas of Washington State and California, and now across the country.
We are also very grateful to the universities and large hospital systems that took up the charge to develop their own quality tests made available by new FDA guidance. This has resulted in expanded testing across New York, California, Washington, Colorado, and you see sometimes those drive-thru options that have been made available through these high-throughput options.
Following the meeting last week, major commercial laboratory equipment and diagnostic companies took immediate action to adopt and develop new testing systems. Last night, the initial company, Roche, received FDA approval, moving from request to development to approval in record time.
This innovative approach centered fully on unleashing the power of the private sector, focusing on providing convenient testing to hundreds of thousands of Americans within short turnaround times. In less than two weeks together, we have developed a solution that we believe will meet the future needs — testing needs of Americans.
I understand how difficult this has been. I was part of the HIV/AIDS response in the Ď80s. We knew, from diag- — from first finding cases in 1981, it took us to almost 1985 to have a test. It took us another 11 years to have effective therapy. It is because of the lessons learned from that that we were able to mobilize and bring those individuals that were key to the HIV response to this response.
I understand that a lot of this behind-the-scenes action over the last couple of weeks was invisible to the press and the American people. But this intense effort has not only resulted in innovative solutions, but an automated high-throughput system, bringing the availability of these quality coronaviral testing to the American people at unprecedented speed.
Finally, I want you to know: In South Korea, they did have large number of tests available over the last several weeks. Their positivity rate is between 3 and 4 percent. With LabCorp and Quest expanded testing, their positivity rate is between 1 and 2 percent.
So we want to also announce this new approach to testing, which will start in the screening website up here, facilitated by Google, where clients and patients and people that have interest can go, fill out a screening questionnaire — move down for symptoms or risk factors, yes. They would move down this and be told where the drive-thru options would be for them to receive this test. The labs will then move to the high-throughput automated machines to be able to provide results in 24 to 36 hours.
That is the intent of this approach. We have seen it work just in our own United States, and we want to bring this across the continent.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Deborah. Great.
I’d like to maybe have Tony — do you want to come up? Youíve become a — I think everybody out here knows you pretty well. But Tony has been doing a tremendous job working long, long hours. And you’ve seen a lot happen, but this has been — it’s been a great experience, and working with you has been terrific.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Mr. President. This is an example of — another example of what I’ve been referring to in my discussions with many of you in the audience as a proactive, leaning-forward, aggressive, trying to stay ahead of the curve.
And what you’re seeing now with this order is that we’re going to be able to remove the constraints so that people at the state and the local level — the individual physician all the way up through the federal government — will have as many constraints as possible removed for them to do everything they possibly can so that we can implement the things that weíve been talking about — the containment, the mitigation — so that, as I’ve said many times, that curve that I referred to that goes up, we don’t want to have that curve. We want to suppress it down to that small mound.
And I think what we’ve done today is something that is going to be a very important element in having us be successful in doing that.
We still have a long way to go. There will be many more cases, but we’ll take care of that. And ultimately, as the President said, this will end. But what’s going on here today is going to help it to end sooner than it would have.
Q I know there’s been a lot of talk about testing. I just want to make sure we’re clear though, because we’ve been hearing from doctors who say, as of today, they still can’t get patients tested who need a test. So, as of today, can everyone who a doctor wants to have tested get tested? And if not, when? When will doctors —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thatís been true for a while. But Iíll let Mike — why don’t you answer that, Mike, please?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as the President said and Dr. Fauci has articulated, the nature of our current system — where the CDC has sample sent and tests are performed or state labs perform tests or, in some cases, university and hospital labs perform tests — is generally adequate for an infectious disease or for people getting diagnostic work done. But given the sheer scale of this, the President tasked us with bringing together this extraordinary public and private partnership.
Today, by some estimates, when you add all the labs together — and, today, the President made it possible for every state in the country and their state labs to authorize labs across their state to do coronavirus testing.
We — weíre estimating somewhere between 15- and 20,000 tests a day are able to be performed. But very soon, with the program that was announced today, Americans will be able to visit one of the sites closest to them, as described on the website, if they’re symptomatic — if the questionnaire indicates it — to be able to have a test there. And these incredible companies will process the test and they’ll receive that information.
But, for now, the best advice that we can give for people is to speak to their doctor, as the President just said. And if the doctor indicates, that physician — if it’s not a university hospital or otherwise authorized lab — can contact the state lab. And, again, every state lab in the country can perform tests today.
But what the President charged us with, when I was tasked to take over the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was: Open up tests all across the country. And the President said, a few days ago, that we made it clear that any American that wanted to get a test would be able, clinically, to get a test. Because I literally heard from the Governor of Washington State, who said the doctors in Washington State were saying that if you were only mildly symptomatic, they would not order a test. And fortunately, the President directed CDC to clarify that.
Now anyone in consultation with their physician, regardless of their symptoms can request a test and their doctors will contact those agencies, those labs in their state. But very soon, Americans will be able to go to these — these drive-in sites and be able to obtain and participate in a test.
Dr. Birx, is there more to amplify that?
DR. BIRX: No, I think — I think that’s perfectly said. I think, just to review one more time about the testing: With LabCorp and Quest — I think many of you have been to a doctorís office and seen the little boxes outside — what they do is they deliver both the specimen collection piece — because, remember, it’s a nasal swab; it’s not a tube of blood. So they’ve delivered that to doctors’ offices and hospitals, and then they will arrange to pick that up.
The important piece in this all is they’ve gone from a machine that may have a lower throughput, to the potential to have automated extraction. I know you don’t want all of these details, but it’s really key for the laboratory people. It’s an automated extraction of the RNA that then runs in an automated way on the machine, with no one touching it, and the result comes out at the other end.
So, sample to machine to results. That cuts out a lot of the manual pieces that were happening that were delaying the test results.
Q And so, with that, what’s the timeline — like from when you’re tested to when you get results? Like, next week, what should people expect?
DR. BIRX: Well, with the prior testing, it was taking several days because the test is slower. We believe with this test, because of its throughput, that the testing can be from start — remember, it has to transport — to the laboratory that will run it. And then we’re hoping that all can be finished within 24 hours, which is very similar to other tests that you receive today.
These are not point-of-care tests. We are working on point-of-care tests, but we have to realize point-of-care tests take six months or more to develop. So we’re not waiting for those. We’re still diagnosing this on nucleic acid, so as an antibody. This is actually the antigen — the actual virus in your nose that we’re amplifying.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you have to remember, though: We’re working very closely with states, and you have a smaller form and more targeted form of government going in and doing it — like, in New York, where the relationship is very good; like Gavin Newsom, where he made some very complimentary — because thatís California — he made some really complimentary comments the other day about how we’re working together. We worked on the ship together, but we worked on a lot of other things together, having to do with this.
And we’re — well, really, the relationship that we have — I can’t think of a bad relationship. We’re helping them. We’re funding them, in some cases, depending on what it is you’re talking about. And we’re all working together very closely. So we’ve done, really, I think a tremendous job of teamwork with the different states.
To view the entire press conference as streamed live on LBREPORT.com, click below.
Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.