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Editorial: Bipartisan group must continue push for testing resources

There’s room for improvement when, in a state with more than 10 million people, only a few dozen have been tested by public health officials for a rapidly spreading virus and there are only supplies to test 300 more people.

That’s why three of North Carolina’s congressmen — Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. Richard Hudson and David Price — must continuing pressing the federal government for answers about when additional resources will be a available to increase the state’s testing capacity. The bipartisan trio on Wednesday sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the federal government’s coronavirus response.

In that letter, citing the Centers for Disease Control, the congressmen said only 75,000 tests have been distributed across a country of more than 300 million people.

Meanwhile, in a news conference on Tuesday, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the agency had only run 44 tests for COVID-19, with 25 still pending. As of Tuesday, there were only supplies to test 300 more people.

An important caveat is that private labs have been given approval by the Food and Drug Administration to administer tests. So, those who need tests don’t only need to rely on the Centers for Disease Control and state testing facilities. But the congressmen made clear that the supply is not enough for the expected demand.

“As North Carolina’s federal representatives, we must ensure that our state receives the necessary resources to meet current and future demands,” the congressmen wrote. “Accordingly, we are committed to working with you to ensure that North Carolina receives its additional supply of tests kits and guidance on best practices for testing prioritization.”

Our congressmen are fighting to ensure the state can test enough people as cancellations and suspensions are coming fast and furious. While it’s not yet the case here, colleges and K-12 schools in some places have made tough decisions to alter class schedules. The National Basketball Association suspended its season Wednesday night and college sports leagues said they plan to play basketball tournament games without fans in attendance.

Those decisions are understandable for people who are deciding between public health and continuing business as usual.

But it’s not acceptable to continue to endure a shortage of testing kits. The congressional letter said more supplies are scheduled to arrive this week at the latest, and we hope that’s indeed the case. The remainder of North Carolina’s congressional representations should join the trio in advocating for more testing supplies.

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