CDC director testifies on delay of coronavirus test kits as concerns grow: Part 1

Robert Redfield answered questions from Congress about why it's taking so long to get COVID-19 test kits to health care providers and condemned people who refer to it as the "China virus."
8:07 | 03/11/20

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Transcript for CDC director testifies on delay of coronavirus test kits as concerns grow: Part 1
This, I believe, will be one of the most transformative occurrences in the history of our nation. Reporter: The coronavirus taking hold in the U.S. Today. The first containment zone here in new Rochelle, New York. Just north of Manhattan. State officials say 100 to 200 members of the National Guard will be here to help clean and sanitize schools and public areas and deliver food wherever it's needed. It is a dramatic action. This is literally a matter of life and death. Reporter: That zone of containment consisting of a one-mile radius around the young Israel synagogue where dozens were exposed. The first to test positive, an attorney. New York state is reeling from one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the country. New York City's mayor noting a spike in cases. We have a very rapidly evolving situation on the numbers of cases. And we're obviously concerned when we see more cases, but there's a piece of this that actually is in its own way good news. The testing capacity is coming online more and more. Reporter: Tonight at least 28 people have died, including a 69-year-old man in New Jersey. According to Johns Hopkins, over 100,000 cases of covid-19 are reported worldwide with 800 in the U.S. As anxiety mounts, medical professionals and potential patients sounding the alarm that there aren't enough testing kits to keep up with the growing numbers. This is a big problem. To understand the epidemic we have to know what the denominator is. Reporter: At least 6600 covid-19 tests have been administered across the country. Dr. Todd elleren outside Boston says the hospital has been inundated with test requests. I've been flooded with calls from patients and providers who have flu-like symptoms and are testing negative for the flu and a broad range of respiratory viruses. We have to ask ourselves, what's filling in that gap? I think there's a good chance covid-19 is the pathogen. Reporter: Quick and accurate testing he says more important than ever. There's no question that at this point when we think we have community transmission, when you know there's community transmission that means there's a lot more undiagnosed cases than diagnosed cases. We have to up our level of testing. Reporter: In Washington state, the Seattle mayor says the lack of tests played a vital ten nursing homes and long-term care facilities are reporting coronavirus. I think as a region and state, we do not yet have enough testing capacity. Because we don't have enough testing and the CDC rules about who could get tested and the very few numbers of test kits we had we missed how widely and quickly this disease was spreading. Reporter: Washington governor Jay innslee is bracing for an explosion of cases. There could be 64,000 cases if we don't slow down this epidemic, and the next week would be 120,000 and the next week a quarter of a million. Reporter: Today the director of the CDC testifying before congress, fielding questions about the delay in getting test kits to health providers across the country U. CDC's focus was to provide testing. There's a whole new realm of testing. There's really laboratory testing availability to any doctor's office that can go through labs through quest. I would have loved the private sector to be fully engaged weeks ago. Reporter: They plan to collaborate test results with the goal of tracking how many Americans have been tested and what the test results are. Like CDC, the state and local, territory health departments are underfunded. And I want to rebuild the corps capabilities. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a data where every department could see in real time so we could predict what's going on and where to put assets. Reporter: Most people who get covid-19 will experience mild symptoms and never have to be but he did reiterate a warning about travel for certain groups of people. We have recommended that the elderly and vulnerable, including children with chemotherapy and others should reconsider at this point travel. Reporter: The elderly comprising a significant chunk of passengers on the "Grand princess" cruise ship, still docked in Oakland, California. Over 1,000 of its passengers, aged 70 or older with the most serious cases departing the ship yesterday. Frustration mounting as 269 passengers came off today. We're getting a little discouraged, once we get off, which will probably be tomorrow. We still have 14 more days. Reporter: All 19 of the "Grand princess" crew members back on the ship for isolation. And a yellow flag flying signaling the ship is under quarantine. It will go away, stay calm. Reporter: Today the president attended a meeting with senators on capitol hill to urge calm. He defended the testing process. U.S. Has done a very good job on testing. We had to change things that were done, and the testing has gone very well and when people need a test they can get a test. Reporter: Trump saying he has not been tested, despite spending time with three people, including his chief of staff, who are self-quarantining after coming into contact with a man who has tested positive. I feel extremely good. I feel very good. There's no symptoms, no anything. Reporter: But the president also had other things on his mind, tweeting about today's primary election, that it's going to be a bad day, for, quote, crazy Bernie. Senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden competing in six contests, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Michigan and Washington state. There, voters only mail in their ballots. A secretary of state warning voters not to lick them but use a wet sponge or cloth. It's really helpful for us to have all vote by mail, because people can vote from their home. We've got to make sure that as we're doing what we need to do we're also keeping our civic society alive and well. Reporter: On the campaign trail, the specter of coronavirus loomed large. The Biden campaign offering hand sanitizer to attendees at a Detroit rally. Sanitizer and hand wipes popping up at some polling locations. Both campaigns canceled rallies in Cleveland. They asked the campaigns to cancel their events in Cleveland with large groups of people. And that's what we did, due to the coronavirus. Reporter: Biden, after a strong night with key wins in several contests, including Looks like we're going to have another good night. With victories in Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan. Reporter: Set to deliver remarks on coronavirus tomorrow. And while many are worried coronavirus could escalate to the next level, medical professionals want to assure people that this is not the worse case scenario. We have survived pandemics in the past. The last one was ten years ago. We got through it. We will get through this.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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