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House Democrats Probe Faulty Test Kits’ Role in Delaying Coronavirus Response

The House Oversight Committee cited ProPublica’s reporting in requesting documents from the Trump administration.

The House Oversight Committee is investigating the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, citing ProPublica’s reporting that problems with the government’s lab tests may have hampered officials’ ability to contain the disease’s spread in the U.S.

“It is essential that accurate and up-to-date information about testing and diagnosed cases is made public — in order to effectively manage this outbreak and keep the trust of the American people,” the Democratic-controlled committee said in a letter sent Tuesday to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, from Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, National Security Subcommittee Chairman Stephen F. Lynch and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly. The lawmakers also sent letters requesting documents to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

Public health experts have criticized the CDC for screening potentially infected patients in only narrow circumstances. The CDC’s and state labs’ abilities to screen more patients was limited because of technical problems with the test that the CDC developed on its own, instead of adopting the version endorsed by the World Health Organization, ProPublica reported late last week. The administration has since expanded testing, but the slow start could have left an opening for the virus to circulate undetected for weeks.

“Press reports of limited availability of testing kits, flaws in those that were made available, and narrow testing requirements raise concerns about the Trump Administration’s readiness to efficiently and accurately diagnose COVID-19,” the oversight committee said in at statement, using the formal name for the disease caused by the current strain of coronavirus.

As of noon on Tuesday, the CDC reported 60 confirmed cases and six deaths in the U.S. Globally, the virus has turned up in 77 countries and killed more than 3,000 people, mostly in central China, where the outbreak originated, according to the WHO.

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The Democratic lawmakers also raised questions about incomplete and removed information on the CDC’s website and how health care costs will be covered for patients with inadequate or no insurance.

This article was originally published in ProPublica. It has been republished under the Creative Commons license.  ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.