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Trump aide: We're working to shorten coronavirus test turnaround times

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary with the

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary with the Health and Human Services Department,  talks about meeting with Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker to discuss COVID-19 response in Nantucket, Mass., on Saturday. Credit: Merrily Cassidy

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary with the Health and Human Services Department, said Sunday the federal government is working shorten the length of time it takes to conduct coronavirus testing, following criticism over lengthy turnaround times.

"Let me assure you that we are not going to stop our efforts until testing is exactly where we want it to be, with rapid turnaround times," said Giroir on CNN's "State of the Union." Giroir is leading efforts to coordinate the testing across the country.

Giroir acknowledged that testing is slowest in major national commercial lab chains. 

"We are trying to bring that down," Giroir said. He added that "pooling" was authorized at major laboratories, including Quest and LabCorp, and "surge testing" will be added to U.S. cities with major outbreaks.

"I am highly confident that turnaround will decrease this week," Giroir said, noting those measures, as well as expanded testing in nursing homes and "point-of-care" testing, which can be administered quicker than other tests. 

"We are all working to improve testing. This is an unprecedented demand," Giroir told CNN's Jake Tapper. "I'm never going to be happy until we have this under control."

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He said the United States will have 50 million tests available in August, and about 65 million in September.

Alex Azar, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, on Sunday urged Americans to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Azar said: "Wear face coverings. We need to practice social distancing, good personal hygiene, and in our hot zones, close our bars, restrict our indoor dining, restrict our home gatherings."

He added, "the most important thing we've got to do right now is each of us act responsibly as individuals."

"We know this works if we just will do this as individuals," Azar said.

Asked about what guidelines exist to support a decision to shut down a school, Azar said, "We don't believe that there are uniform thresholds for school reopenings."

Last week, President Donald Trump and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said some schools in coronavirus hot spots should consider distance learning. Asked what constituted a "hot spot," Redfield told reporters it would include areas with a 5% positive infection rate.

After CBS anchor Margaret Brennan asked if schools should close if the positivity rate in a community is between 5 and 10 percent, Azar said: "Each community is going to have to make the determination about the circumstances for reopening and what steps they take for reopening, but the presumption should be, we get our kids back to school, and we figure out how to make that happen."

On "Face the Nation" on Sunday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). further criticized President Donald Trump for his response to the coronavirus.

"I have a new name for him, Mr. Make Matters Worse," she told Brennan. "He has made matters worse from the start. Delay, denial. It's a hoax. It'll go away magically. It's a miracle, and all the rest. And we're in this situation with — you spelled out some of the numbers very clearly early. So it makes matters worse."

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