Americans will have access to more than 2,000 labs for coronavirus testing, Pence says

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the government's coronavirus task force, addresses the press following a tour of the 3M company headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S. March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Pfosi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence promised on Sunday that Americans would have access in the days ahead to more than 2,000 laboratories capable of processing coronavirus tests, and a leading expert said the country would launch a new phase of testing for the fast-spreading disease.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Pence also said he and President Donald Trump would brief U.S. state governors on Monday on the widening testing amid a fast-escalating global health crisis.

The Trump administration has faced criticism in recent weeks for what has widely been seen as a slow gearing up of testing for the coronavirus.

With limited testing available, U.S. officials have recorded nearly 3,000 cases and 62 deaths, and large segments of daily activities have been upended across the country. Globally, more than 162,000 people are infected and over 6,000 have died.

U.S. Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir said the United States may have 1.9 million “high-throughput” tests available this week.

“That is a real game changer for us,” Giroir said of the increased number of testing labs due to come on line.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the United States was moving into a new phase of testing.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Peter Cooney