N.Y. Gov. Cuomo questions low rate of coronavirus testing in the U.S.

"When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the United States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'"

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By Rachel Elbaum

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo questioned Wednesday why so few people in the U.S. have been tested for the coronavirus.

“When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the United States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'” said the governor on the "TODAY" show. “China did something like 200,000 tests per day. South Korea did about 15,000 tests per day. The United States has only done about 5,000 tests to date.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, a New York City suburb.

Westchester County, where New Rochelle is, had 108 cases of the virus on Tuesday. New York state has 173 cases. Cuomo also urged the federal government to "just take the handcuffs off me and let New York State do what New York State can do."

"The retrospective is going to be damning," he added.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has promised millions of tests will be made available throughout the U.S. by the end of this week. But he acknowledged Monday that he did not know how many patients had been tested so far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that more than 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus across the U.S. Because multiple specimens are required from each individual, the number of actual patients who have been tested is likely far lower.

A running national tally kept by the Johns Hopkins University center tracking the outbreak puts the total number of cases in the U.S. at 1,039, with 29 deaths.

Cuomo wasn't the only Democratic politician questioning the rate of testing in the U.S. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed the Trump administration's handling of coronavirus and requested clarity on the availability of tests.

"The Trump administration’s total mismanagement of the coronavirus response and insistence on downplaying this epidemic has led to complete confusion when it comes to how people can get tested and whether they will be charged out-of-pocket if they do get tested,” Schumer said in a statement.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admitted on Sunday that early attempts to send out coronavirus tests were frustrated by delays, but said the nation's testing capacity is "accelerating dramatically."

"Early on, there were some missteps with regard to the test and some technical aspects to it. But right now, I believe, 1.1 million tests have already been sent out. By Monday, there'll be an additional 400,000. And by the end of next week, probably around 4 million," he said in an interview on "Meet the Press."

The White House said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has not been tested for the virus, and Vice President Mike Pence said in a press conference on Monday that he also has not been tested.

Julie Tsirkin contributed.