Dr. Anthony Fauci said that testing for the novel coronavirus needs to double in the United States before lockdown orders can be safely lifted. The respected immunologist also said he believes that this could happen within the next few weeks.
According to The Hill, the United States is conducting 1.5 to 2 million tests each week, and that needs to be increased dramatically.
"We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will," Fauci said while speaking with the National Academy of Sciences. "Testing is an important part of what we're doing, but it is not the only part."
The purpose of increasing testing is so that comprehensive contact-tracing programs can be implemented.
"You need enough tests so when you're doing what we're trying to do right now, which is trying to ease our way back, that you can very easily identify, test, contact trace and get those who are infected out of society so they don't infect others," he said.
Fauci's comments are in contrast to some state leaders and people within the Trump administration who have suggested that there is enough testing capacity to open state economies right away. A few weeks ago, President Donald Trump said that the country has reached the appropriate testing capacity to begin the reopening process.Some governors say that this isn't true, however. Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said that it is "absolutely false" that states have enough testing capability to ease social distancing guidelines.
Other states, such as Georgia, began reopening this weekend. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered that Georgia's restaurants, bowling alleys, nail salons, barbers, and similar businesses can begin opening their doors to customers once again, as long as social distancing practices are followed.
But more important than the exact number of test kits is the ability to respond when cases begin to surge once again as people emerge from lockdown orders, Fauci said.
States must "have enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur as you try and ease your way back into the different phases," he explained.
Some people have pushed back against stay-at-home orders, with protests across the country over the past few weeks.
Former federal prosecutor Trey Gowdy recently said that the government needs to have a more compelling reason to ask people to remain in quarantine.
So far, the U.S. has over 939,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 54,000 deaths.