The United States government has conducted 5,861 tests for the novel coronavirus as of Friday at 6 p.m., US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said on Saturday at an off-camera press briefing, CNN reported.
The report comes amid a rise in US cases as the virus continues to spread across the country. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in his state after announcing 21 new cases on Saturday, joining a handful of other states that have declared public emergencies as a result of people testing positive for COVID-19.
There have been at least 19 deaths in the US from the virus that has killed nearly 3,500 globally so far. Most fatalities have occurred in China.
As CNN reported, the number does not mean 5,861 people have been tested for the virus, as those who are tested for typically have two swabs taken and tested: one nose swab and one throat swab. The number also does not account for tests at private labs.
Saturday marked the first time the US government released official numbers on coronavirus tests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducts coronavirus testing, has faced backlash over its handling of US cases. While other countries affected by outbreaks of the virus, which is believed to have originated in China at the end of last year, have tested millions of patients for potential coronavirus, the US has tested just thousands, according to a report from MIT Technology Review.
Part of the issue, the report said, is faulty COVID-19 testing kits issued to states by the CDC in early February. The kits were found to have "faulty negative controls," meaning the results of some test kits were inaccurate, and states had to continue sending test samples to the CDC for testing.
FDA policy prohibited states and private entities from developing their own test kits, meaning they only had access to the faulty FDA kits. The agency lifted that regulation on February 29, allowing states and commercial labs to create their own coronavirus testing kits.
As Business Insider previously reported, Vice President Mike Pence — the Trump-appointed head of the US coronavirus task force — admitted that the country was not able to meet up with the demand for the test kits.
The FDA commissioner had promised March 2 that the US would have 1 million test kits available by the end of the week, though Pence said the country failed to meet such a promise.
"We don't have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward," the vice president said Thursday, telling the BBC that the new goal would be met next week and had been increased to 1.2 million testing kits.
The CDC on March 4 broadened its criteria for testing, allowing more individuals exhibiting symptoms of the disease to be tested.