U.S. Senator Doug Jones criticizes lack of COVID-19 testing, state says it’s ready

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said senators received a briefing from the Trump Administration Thursday morning on COVID-19. Jones, a Democrat, said they left without getting many answers 

“It’s very simple, when in the world are going to get more testing? That was the dominant question and it was the one thing they could not tell us,” Jones said. “The problem we’ve got now in the country is a lack of testing.”

Jones said that’s being felt in Alabama.

“A lot of restrictions on who can get tests,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in Alabama. Folks in Alabama have been calling our offices because they’re trying to get tested and they can’t.”

There’s been strict criteria established by the Alabama Department of Public Health. State Health Officer Scott Harris said Thursday they have prioritized cases where infection was more likely and for patients whose health is more vulnerable.

Jones argued it was due to a lack of available tests.

“Because the restrictions are such that unless you have one – symptoms, and two — you’ve either had foreign travel or been in contact with someone known to have the virus. You’re just not going to get tested because there’s not enough tests available.”

Harris said they’ve got enough tests currently and they’ve started to loosen testing criteria. He said the state lab is able to handle testing demand, though as of Thursday fewer than 50 tests have been done so far.

Jones said the lack of testing means officials and the public don’t have enough information.

“Until the tests are widely available and affordable we’re not really going to know the extent of what we’re dealing with here,” he said.

Heading into Thursday evening, Alabama had reported no confirmed COVID-19 cases, but both Jones and Harris expected that to change.

“It’s a real fine line here, we don’t want panic, we don’t want to send everybody rushing, but at the same time, I don’t want folks to be lulled into a false sense of security that this is not going to affect Alabama. It is going to affect Alabama, we know it, let’s just be prepared for it.”

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