March 13 (UPI) — The Trump administration on Friday instituted new measures to speed up the availability of coronavirus testing after criticism from health officials and lawmakers over the slow pace of the rollout.
The Department of Health and Human Services appointed assistant secretary Brett Giroir to coordinate all COVID-19 testing efforts among an array of federal public health agencies.
HHS also announced it had awarded a total of nearly $1.3 million to two private companies developing rapid coronavirus tests that could yield a result within an hour.
The Food and Drug Administration said it had given the state of New York the power to authorize testing laboratories of its own choosing after Gov. Mario Cuomo voiced frustration with the ability of federal officials to manage the testing efforts.
The FDA also issued an emergency authorization for a currently available test made by Roche — its third such authorization during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The HHS grants were given to DiaSorin Molecular of Cypress, Calif., and Qiagen LLC of Germantown, Md. The companies are developing new types of rapid coronavirus tests, which officials said could be ready for widespread deployment within 6 to 12 weeks.
The White House said President Donald Trump will also address the coronavirus outbreak at a news conference at 3 p.m. EDT Friday.
The developments came after lawmakers and health officials leveled harsh criticism of the administration’s performance in making COVID-19 testing easily available to Americans.
During a hearing of the House oversight committee Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that government efforts were failing to provide easy and accessible testing.
“The changes have been made, and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis,” Trump said in a pair of tweets Friday morning, while also faulting previous planning efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama.
“All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!” he said.