The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday called for more “aggressive actions” to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the CDC is working to expand testing capabilities of the virus to states other than Georgia.
Currently, rapid diagnostic tests can only be conducted at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta and lab results from around the country must be sent in for testing – a process that can take up to 36 hours.
The agency is now working to provide state and local health departments with the tools needed to conduct tests themselves — without sending in the results.
The CDC said it will submit diagnostics to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval of the changes under “emergency use authorization.”
“The process is extremely expedited and our colleagues at [the FDA] have been working with us closely ever since we made the plan that we were going to this in this way,” Messonnier told reporters Monday.
She added that negative tests don’t necessarily mean a person is not infected and do not guarantee people won’t get sick. It is possible for tests to come back as negative because diagnostics couldn’t detect the virus yet.
Since first emerging in China last month, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of 425 people, with more than 20,400 confirmed cases – nearly quadruple that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
For News’ Madeline Farber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.