In strategic shift, doctors in America’s two largest cities are told to skip some coronavirus testing

A health worker administers a test to a motorist in Stamford, Connecticut, on March 20. John Moore/Getty Images

As the US has lagged behind other advanced nations in testing for the coronavirus, former government officials and public health experts point to a series of policy and procedural decisions that they say hindered the nation’s response to the pandemic.

South Korea had run more than 300,000 tests as of Friday, and while there is no official count of tests done in the United States, Dr. Deborah Birx, part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, implied about 170,000 people have been tested so far. The US population is more than six times that of South Korea.

For weeks public and private labs have raced to boost their testing capacity, but people across the country, even some with underlying health conditions, have told CNN this week that they have not been able to get tested.

Asked Friday whether the US can currently meet demand for tests, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “We are not there yet.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first test didn’t work

Some context: In January, shortly after Chinese authorities identified a novel coronavirus as the cause of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, the World Health Organization published a protocol with instructions for any country to manufacture tests for the virus

Rather than using that protocol, the CDC developed its own test. A World Health Organization spokesperson said this week that the WHO didn’t offer tests to the CDC because the US agency typically has the capacity to manufacture them itself.

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