The number of novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. has seen a 534 percent spike in just a week’s time as the amount of COVID-19 testing kits become more widely available across the country. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. hit over 10,000 cases on Thursday, compared to the 1,694 illnesses recorded by March 12.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced further steps to expand testing capacity, which officials have warned will result in more positive cases in the coming days. One of the loudest voices on the matter has been New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has the largest number of cases in the U.S.
“We have tested now 22,000,” Cuomo said in a press briefing on Thursday. “We tested 7,500 people last night. Why are you seeing the numbers go up? Because you are taking more tests. People see those numbers go up, they get nervous, they panic. ‘Look at how many more people have the virus.’ That’s not how many more people have the virus, you’re just taking more tests so you’re finding more positives. There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus who we are not testing.”
Drive-through testing has also become an option in New York and several other regions, but medical professionals have cautioned that only those who are exhibiting symptoms and are determined by a doctor to need a test will actually receive one, leaving open the possibility that thousands of additional cases are walking around undiagnosed.
“I didn’t have any symptoms and I got a test, but I got a test because you people were driving everybody crazy,” Trump said in a press conference with the White House coronavirus task force on Thursday. “Everybody said ‘don’t do it, you don’t need it,’ but I had to do it because the media was driving everybody crazy.”
Trump added that as president he was a “unique case,” and that people who don’t show symptoms of the virus and haven’t been exposed to COVID-19 would not need a test.
“People who don’t show symptoms and whose doctors say they don’t need it, I would rely on that,” he said.
Celebrities and even professional athletes have been accused of receiving preferential treatment and have faced criticism over receiving tests despite not showing symptoms or having had previous exposure to the virus.
“There’s nothing irresponsible – if you’ve got that information [that you’ve been exposed] – about trying to get the tests,” Michelle Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) told ESPN on Wednesday. “The problem that more of us can’t get the tests – and I’m not apologetic about saying it – in my view, that rests at the foot of the federal government. They were responsible for making sure we were protected in that regard and I think they failed.”
Still, long lines and a lack of supplies are hampering testing efforts for even those who need it. One woman in Colorado told the Wall Street Journal that she received an order from her doctor for a test only to be turned away three times at two different testing sites after waiting in an hours-long line.
“It’s making this worse,” Rachael Willingham told the news outlet. “It’s contributing realty to the sense of fear.”
There’s also a fear that the materials needed to make the testing kits may soon run dry.
“The testing process has been difficult,” Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, a disease and prescription specialist and CEO/founder of the La Jolla Laser Surgery Center, previously told Fox News. “Initially the test kits were flawed, and burdensome rules and strict criteria contributed to hospitals and doctors struggling to test widely for the coronavirus. These delays have made it impossible to get a true picture of the outbreak.”
“There are enough tests at hospitals and designated facilities for those that are symptomatic,” Shirazi said. “The challenge is testing those who have come into contact with someone who has it but they’re not symptomatic.”
Fox News’ Hollie McKay contributed to this report.