By Ben Chapman and Frances Yoon
State leaders across the U.S. are moving to expand testing for the new coronavirus, while lifting some restrictions on travel and business that have crippled the nation’s economy.
Nearly 1.3 million Americans have been infected and over 77,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Globally the death toll is approaching 275,000, the data show.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced the opening of 22 new testing sites, which are meant to provide coronavirus testing for thousands of residents and enable epidemiologists to trace the disease’s spread among people.
The new sites will be housed at churches in low-income areas across the state and will target black and Hispanic New Yorkers, communities that have been disproportionately affected by the disease, Cuomo said. He encouraged residents to obtain tests even if they have no symptoms.
Cuomo said he would proceed with caution when deciding on whether to reopen, though he noted Saturday that New York continued to make progress fighting the virus, pointing to a drop in hospitalization rates.
New York joins other states that are also developing new testing capabilities. Delaware Gov. John Carney said on Friday his state would begin an effort to quadruple its testing ability. Connecticut is lifting restrictions on who can order the tests—allowing pharmacists as well as doctors—to spur testing, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.
The efforts come as some of America’s most prominent public-health doctors say the country must double the amount of testing it is doing and conduct at least four million a week to track the disease and help prevent its spread as the public returns to work and schools.
The Food and Drug Administration moved to boost testing on Saturday by granting emergency-use authorization to Quidel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209081561/composite QDEL -1.14% for the first antigen test for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus —a step that will greatly enhance the nation’s testing capacity to test for the disease. The antigen test, which produces swifter results, looks for the disease itself as opposed to antibody tests that look for traces of past exposure.
California loosened coronavirus-related restrictions, one of several states easing its lockdown. Retailers such as clothing stores, bookstores, florists and sporting goods stores could offer curbside pickup. Dine-in restaurants, gyms, offices and other nonessential stores will remain closed.
North Carolina, which remains under a blanket stay-at-home order, began its first phase of reopening Friday afternoon. Other states, including Nevada and Michigan, will begin easing some restrictions in the coming days. Maine Gov. Janet Mills said that some businesses in 12 counties with low case counts and no evidence of community transmission would be allowed to open. Rhode Island also lifted emergency measures on Saturday.