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60+ Representatives Press Trump Administration to Improve Testing and Contact Tracing Infrastructure

May 6, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) and 62 Representatives in demanding improved testing and contact tracing infrastructure in order to manage the novel coronavirus, citing an inadequate and opaque response by the Trump Administration that is insufficient to prevent epidemic spread and reopen the economy. They demanded answers to increase transparency, accountability, and improve management of the novel coronavirus.

They wrote:

“Until a vaccine or viable treatment strategy is developed, ongoing testing, isolation, monitoring, and contact tracing is necessary to contain the epidemic, prevent future spikes, and reopen the economy. Despite the surge in private lab capacity and work by our local public health professionals, we have not built up sufficient testing and contact tracing capabilities to adequately manage the novel coronavirus.

The actual number of Americans who have been exposed to or infected with the coronavirus is unknown because of the insufficient testing infrastructure. Testing not only allows for diagnosis and treatment, but also establishes how widespread a virus is. When public health experts know the size of the problem, they can analyze the rate at which people are hospitalized or die, and can follow its movements, making recommendations to policymakers on best management practices. CDC does not publicly share comprehensive testing data despite the requirement in Families First Coronavirus Response Act that gave CDC access to that data. Instead, Americans, including policymakers, are relying on the volunteer heroism of The COVID Tracking Project to access daily testing information, rather than the appropriate primary source, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

…Enough testing is necessary to reach a lower test positivity rate that manages COVID-19 and prevents epidemic spread…Some experts argue that we should currently run up to 20 million tests a day, not 200,000.  Given the sheer scale of testing needed, only the federal government has the means to incentivize increased production of diagnostic tests, swabs, reagents and other elements necessary to meet this scale while also controlling the supply chain….

Data from Wuhan, China showed that social distancing alone could not bring the virus’ spread rate low enough to lift the restrictions. In order to manage COVID-19 and reopen the economy, we must reduce the epidemic to case-based management which requires increased testing and contact tracing. Sufficient public health infrastructure to contact trace makes it possible to proactively identify cases, identify contacts, and follow up on those contacts. We currently do not have enough staff in public health departments to do contact tracing.”

The signed full text of the letter is available here.

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