New York City will need to run hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests a day before officials can ease social distancing guidelines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
There is still widespread transmission throughout the city, meaning that health officials aren't able to trace the origin of most Covid-19 cases and residents need to maintain social distancing to contain the outbreak, de Blasio said. To get to the next phase, low-level transmission, the city needs greater testing so that it can isolate individual cases faster and trace and isolate the patient's contacts, the mayor said.
"To get to low-level transmission and to hold onto it, you need a huge amount of testing. Not just tens of thousands of tests per day but as many as hundreds of thousands tests per day for a city of 8.6 million people," de Blasio said at a press conference.
To prepare for the next phase, the city is building teams of medical personnel to conduct contact tracing, which is labor-intensive. They are also identifying public sites where people can get tested, de Blasio said. He said the city will begin to manufacture its own test kits at the beginning of May since the federal government has failed to provide an adequate amount.
"We have to be ready to push into that phase, that low-level transmission phase, that we all want to get to," de Blasio said. "We have to have all the building blocks in place even while we're fighting to get the testing we need, we have to have the building blocks in place."
He said that although the city has seen progress in containing the coronavirus, more progress is needed to reduce the virus' spread and begin easing restrictions. He said the daily number of people admitted to the hospital for Covid-19 rose to 252. The number of people who are in intensive care and who tested positive declined, he said.
"Overall, real progress and let's stick to it," de Blasio said.
A day earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after meeting with President Donald Trump that they agreed to work together to double New York's testing. The state, which has been the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, is testing about 20,000 people per day, Cuomo told MSNBC on Tuesday.
Experts have warned against reopening the country before widespread testing is available. Some say that as many as 20 million to 30 million people per day will need to be tested before the nation can return to a semblance of economic normality.
Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that more than 150,000 tests are being conducted per day across the U.S., but that number could double once laboratories are activated.