WASHINGTON (WJZ) — As the number of coronavirus cases in the United States grows, the country’s capacity for testing people for the virus is inadequate, a Johns Hopkins Medicine expert said during a briefing on Capitol Hill Friday.
Dr. Lisa Maragakis, the senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the country needs the ability to test for COVID-19 more quickly and at a larger scale.
“Testing capacity is not currently adequate and we need more,” Maragakis said. “We need this as soon as we can have it, and I think there are a variety of efforts underway to provide access to that testing.”
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One of those efforts, Maragakis said, is that testing kits have been sent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to state labs.
On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Health was approved to conduct COVID-19 tests. Prior to that, test results had been sent to the CDC in Atlanta.
Microbiology labs like the one at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore are also working on creating their own tests, Maragakis said, adding Hopkins’ lab could be ready to start testing “in a matter of days.”
While worldwide the number of COVID-19 cases was over 95,000 as of Thursday, Maragakis said the vast majority of people — 80 to 85 percent — who contract the virus will have mild or no symptoms.
The data currently suggests that 80-85% of people who are infected will have a mild to no symptoms. – Lisa Maragakis, Senior Director of Infection Prevention at @HopkinsMedicine
— Johns Hopkins Medicine (@HopkinsMedicine) March 6, 2020
Additionally, children seem to be less vulnerable, though it’s unclear why, she said.
Like other viruses, COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for varying periods of time, said Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a professor of molecular biology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University. Despite that, current disinfectants work “very very well” against the virus.
The best way to avoid getting the virus is for people to wash their hands, Maragakis said.
As of Friday afternoon, three Marylanders — all from Montgomery County — have tested positive for COVID-19; 12 more tests are pending. In total, 41 people from Maryland have been tested.