U.S. working to cut "red tape" on coronavirus testing, Mike Pence says

Pence outlines federal coronavirus response

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday the United States is working to cut any "red tape" that is hindering coronavirus testing, following reports of barriers for doctors. He insisted that doctors across the country can get the tests they need.  

"We are going to continue to work in every way to clear out, as the president said, any red tape, any barriers to testing that might have existed at the FDA," Pence said on "CBS This Morning."

There are more than 1,300 known coronavirus cases in the United States and 39 people have died. On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump declared a ban on non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in many European nations from entering the U.S. in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus further. 

But the government has been criticized for not doing enough testing, making it difficult to determine an accurate number for how many Americans are actually infected. The U.S. has tested at least 8,900 people, according to the COVID Tracking Project. South Korea, meanwhile, has tested up to 10,000 a day. 

States and hospitals have also reported issues obtaining tests. Health officials from New Jersey told Congress on Tuesday that the state of about 9 million people has only received two test kits.

Pence said "every state laboratory in the country" has been able to conduct tests "for some time," and the CDC has updated its guidance on when tests should be used. 

"Many health professionals interpreted CDC guidance to say that if you were only mildly symptomatic that a doctor would not have the authority to recommend a coronavirus test. We changed that," he said. 

The vice president went on to say that any American who might be concerned they were exposed to coronavirus or someone who has it, or anyone who has symptoms "can call their doctor, their doctor can contact their state lab and they'll be able to find out how they can obtain a test."

"We're continuing to expand the availability, and we're literally going to expand to hundreds of thousands of more tests in the days and weeks ahead all across the country," he said. 

CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said there is also an issue of getting the data from the tests. 

"Having the ability to do tests and actually doing the tests, and having the administrative ability to actually get people there, test them, give them results are separate things," he said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. 

Agus said he was shocked that the president was able to put a travel ban in place, "yet he still can't get the 50 states in the United States to give him the data on what testing has happened, and what are the results of those tests."

"That just didn't seem right to me," he said.

The state labs are not required to report their testing to the CDC, but the government is "working to adjust that so that we're getting the full information from every state lab," Pence said.