White House urging labs to prioritize testing of hospital patients

National News

President Donald Trump looks on as White House Senior Policy Advisor Peter Navaro speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is urging commercial labs to prioritize the testing of hospital patients as they work to clear a backlog of tests for the coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence says the Department of Health and Human Services will issue formal guidance Monday, but that the federal government is encouraging all labs to “prioritize inpatient testing.”

Pence says the government hopes to have the backlog of existing tests — a milestone the White House hoped to reach on Monday — cleared by the middle of the week.

The White House is encouraging those without symptoms against seeking testing, warning it depletes already scarce supplies of personal protective equipment for healthcare providers.

President Donald Trump says he’s ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ship mobile hospital centers to the hard-hit states of Washington, California and New York amid the coronavirus pandemic. For New York, that would mean another 1,000 hospital beds.

Trump is also revealing for the first time the number of respirators and other personal protective equipment sent to the hard-hit states by the federal government. It comes as state and local leaders have appealed on the federal government to provide far more, and as Trump has held off on using his fully authorities under the Defense Production Act to marshal the private sector’s capabilities.

Trump says it’s up to states to try to get the materials first. He says: “We’re sort of a backup for states.”

Trump says he’s also giving governors in those three states in calling up their national guard, keeping it under local control but providing federal funding.

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