Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 30, 2020.

Alex Brandon/AP

Testing for the novel coronavirus needs to be doubled before the US can consider easing restrictions in order to reopen the economy, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, said that the US is conducting 1.5 to 2 million tests per weeks and that it should probably “get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks.”

The US has tested about 1.5% of its total population for the novel coronavirus so far. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, said that testing for the novel coronavirus needs to be at least doubled before the US eases restrictions to reopen or stimulate the economy.

Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top official on the White House coronavirus task force, on Saturday said that the US is conducting 1.5 to 2 million tests per week.

“We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will,” Fauci said during the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting, per Politico.

The US has struggled to set up a robust system of testing for the novel coronavirus, which is linked to early stumbles at the federal level and fault test kits sent out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has limited the country’s ability to gain a comprehensive picture of the scale of the outbreak within its borders. 

At the moment, the US has a 20% positivity rate in terms of testing for the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Fauci said that the high test-positivity rate could indicate there’s not enough testing, in the sense only those with a high likelihood of being infected are being tested, and that the positive results should represent “maybe less than 10%.” 

Comparatively, South Korea, which has been applauded by the international community over its handling of the pandemic and strong testing system, has a test-positivity rate of about 2%. South Korea and the US had their first confirmed cases of coronavirus on the same day in January, but the per capita testing rate in South Korea was six times that of the US by the end of March. 

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The US has conducted roughly 5.1 million tests for the novel coronavirus as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins, which constitutes about 1.5% of the total population (roughly 328 million).

But as new cases of the coronavirus seem to plateau in some areas, 16 states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming — have all announced plans to reopen certain nonessential businesses this week.

As of Sunday, there were over 940,000 reported cases in the US, and the death toll surpassed 54,000. 

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