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White House virus briefing touts testing as U.S. death toll passes 50,000

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Trump announced the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first at-home Covid-19 test kit during Friday's White House press briefing, which came as the confirmed U.S. death toll from coronavirus rose past 50,000.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the at-home test was developed by LabCorp. He also said the test would require a doctor's referral. 

“This is a test where under certain circumstances with the doctor's supervision, a test can be mailed to a patient and they can perform the self-swab and then mail it back and get the results after that time, all under the guidance of a licensed physician,” Hahn said.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, noted that the U.S. has now tested roughly 5.1 million Americans for coronavirus.

However, coronavirus testing continues to lag across the United States, which has about 330 million people.

A lack of tests and supplies has hampered the U.S. effort from the beginning. About 193,000 people were tested in the past day, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.

That’s an increase from the two-week daily average of 163,000, but far less than what public health experts estimate is needed to get a handle on the virus.

Researchers at Harvard have estimated a minimum of 500,000 daily tests are needed, and possibly much more, in order to safely reopen the economy.

Pence said Friday that "as testing increases dramatically across the country, cases will increase as well. But people should not be discouraged by those numbers."

The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including — as of Friday — more than 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The actual death toll is believed to be far higher.

Earlier Friday, Trump noted that he had signed a $484 billion bill to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the pandemic — the latest federal effort to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or scale down. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers.

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