Coronavirus: White House announces more availability of masks, tests, health insurance waivers

Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by his task force formed to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States, discussed the latest actions and initiatives on the coronavirus in a White House press conference Tuesday. 


Pence announced that more than 4 million coronavirus tests would be available by the end of the week. The influx of tests comes after an initial delay in testing in the United States due to flawed test kits that were sent out to labs in several states at the outset of COVID-19’s appearance on U.S. soil.

U.S. health agencies have faced criticism over the snag in testing as states with COVID-19 outbreaks struggle to test people who may have been exposed to the virus due to a lack of test kits. 


There is currently a shortage of masks in the United States. Pence announced legislation that would temporarily extend liability protections so that more masks could be sold to hospitals, where medical workers need them most.

RELATED: Does wearing a face mask protect you from coronavirus and other infectious diseases? 

While medical professionals will often wear a face mask when dealing directly with sick patients, there isn’t any significant data to back up the idea that generally wearing a surgical face mask in day-to-day situations — on public transit, for example — has any protective benefits for wearers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those who are already sick wear a face mask when they come into contact with others to limit the spread of their own disease. If the sick person cannot wear a face mask, then people who live in the same household should wear a face mask while in the same room, the agency added. 

However, the CDC makes no mention of the effectiveness of generally wearing a face mask as a preventative measure.

Health insurance costs and treatments

The vice president also discussed how major health insurance companies, joined by Medicare and Medicaid, would be waiving all copays and covering costs for treatment for those who have contracted the virus. 

RELATED: CVS won't charge fees for home delivery of prescriptions amid COVID-19 outbreak 

The vice president announced that there would be no surprise billing by the health insurance companies and that telemedicine efforts were also being encouraged.

Economic support

Pence also discussed economic packages to benefit blue collar workers and small-to-mid-sized businesses impacted by the virus, including payroll tax relief and resources to allow said businesses to provide paid leave.

Cruise lines

Pence discussed initiatives such as advanced virus screenings, improved medical services on ships and evacuation/land-based care for those infected with the virus or are experiencing other serious illnesses.