Roe not satisfied with COVID-19 testing, believes administration response is 'fine'

Jonathan Roberts • Mar 13, 2020 at 8:49 PM

On a conference call with reporters Friday, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-1st) said that, while the United States has been slow to get tests for the novel coronavirus to doctors and health care providers, the government’s response to the outbreak has been “fine.” 

“I think they’ve done fine,” Roe said of the Trump Administration’s response. “This is an unfolding (situation).” 

In regard to testing, however, Roe said he wasn’t satisfied. 

“The test kits haven’t gotten out quick enough, but they’re coming,” Roe said. “I think that’s something that should’ve happened faster.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including 26 Tennesseans. Roe did caution that, as testing increases, the number of cases inevitably will as well, adding that the most important thing is limiting the spread and its quickness.

“As we do more testing — that is going to pick up — there’s no question we’re going to see more cases, but if you can limit the speed of the rise of those cases, that doesn’t put pressure on your health care system,” he said. “We can handle five or 10 people, it’s when 500 people come in that you have a difficult time doing that.” 

He also praised early measures to curb travel from affected areas like China in the early stages of the outbreak, calling it “fortuitous” and “smart” and that he wishes the European travel ban, which went into effect Friday at midnight, would’ve come sooner.

As for a vaccine, Roe said lawmakers are getting daily briefings on its progress and that it’s possible a preliminary vaccine could be ready for human trials “in under a month.” 

“It will take some time — and I can pretty flatly say we won’t be ready by next fall at the start of flu season — but certainly (within) a year is light speed,” Roe said. 

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency, a move Roe said indicates the “seriousness” of an outbreak the World Health Organization classified as a pandemic. 

“This is an unprecedented public health crisis, and today’s national emergency designation and President Trump’s announcement of additional response measures is the right decision,” Roe said in a statement later. “I’m confident that he and his team are doing everything possible to keep Americans safe.”

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