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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Widespread Testing Needed Before Reopening Society, Lawmakers Say

Seth Wenig
Blood is collected for testing of coronavirus antibodies in Hempstead, N.Y., Tuesday. The test, administered by Somos Community Care, looks for the presence of antibodies in a person's blood, signifying they may have some immunity to the coronavirus.

Lawmakers say widespread testing for coronavirus is needed before lifting the shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says it would be virtually impossible to get the economy going without massive testing.

“We are not going to be able to get back to work, back to school, shopping in the malls, and to restaurants, unless we have massive amounts of testing.”

He says less than three million Americans have been tested in the past three months. Ideally we should be testing a million Americans a week. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy agrees. He blames President Donald Trump.

“The obstacle right now to making more tests is the President of the United States. He has not operationalized all of his emergency powers to require manufacturers to make more tests and to make more of the parts that go into the test.”

Murphy says that’s why they’ve drafted legislation requiring the president to do that. They hope to take it up when Congress reconvenes.

The senators spoke on a telephone town hall organized by AARP Connecticut.

Meanwhile, on Long Island Nassau County Executive Laura Curran says part of their strategy to reopen the local economy also depends on the availability of antibody tests.

“When people are ready to go back to work, we’ll know what level of PPE they need. If they’re immune, they won’t need the same level of personal protective equipment. We’ll know what we’re up against.”

Curran says the county Health Department will also develop software to more efficiently track people who tested positive for the virus.

This could help pinpoint where the county needs to focus its resources when businesses start to reopen and people go back to work.

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
Jay Shah is a former Long Island bureau chief at WSHU.