Vice President Mike Pence announced on Sunday that all coronavirus testing will be free of charge, including for uninsured Americans.
"Cost is never going to be a barrier to anyone getting a coronavirus test," he told reporters at a press conference at the White House.
In his announcement, the vice president highlighted the Trump administration's efforts to expand access to COVID-19 tests.
"As you recall, several weeks ago, the president directed a change in our Medicare and Medicaid programs to ensure that coronavirus testing was included. Health insurers were brought in, and they all agreed to waive co-pays," Pence said.
Pence then noted that free coronavirus testing was made possible by congressional action. "Because of the good bipartisan work done in the House of Representatives, now all coronavirus testing is free, and it's free for every American, including uninsured Americans," he said.
Vice President @Mike_Pence assures Americans that #Coronavirus testing is free to all Americans https://t.co/97o4Q5XZqT— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022))1584308691.0
1.9 million tests available next week
At the same press conference, HHS Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir announced that 1.9 million tests will be available next week.
"Because, as the vice president said, of last week's historically fast approval of high-throughput testing, we are now in a new phase of testing," Giroir said.
"We're going from somewhat manual, relatively slow phases to a testing regimen that we can test many tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals per week and maybe even more. We will have 1.9 million of these high-throughput tests available this week," he added.
Giroir also noted the administration has coordinated to have 2,000 labs "starting to turn the lights on" beginning this week, which he described as a "game-changer" for the country as it combats the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 3,000 Americans infected
As of the writing of this story on Sunday afternoon, there are 3,621 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, with 63 of them resulting in fatalities, for a mortality rate of 1.7 percent. To put this number in perspective, the typical seasonal flu's mortality rate is usually around 0.1 percent, making the coronavirus 17 times deadlier.
Experts estimate, however, that the actual mortality rate of the coronavirus is somewhere around 1 percent. Thus far, the U.S. has prioritized testing individuals who showed symptoms or were seriously ill. As testing is rolled out in the coming weeks, public health officials expect the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to increase while the mortality rate goes down.