By Alison Fox
Updated March 04, 2020
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Anyone in the United States can now be tested for the coronavirus as long as a doctor orders it, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Previous restrictions to ordering a test — which were only available to those who had visited a country affected by COVID-19 or come into contact with a confirmed patient — have now been eliminated, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a news briefing on Tuesday.

The new instructions come as Pence, who has been put in charge of the nation's coronavirus task force, noted local concerns that people with mild symptoms wouldn’t be tested.

"Today, we will issue new guidance from the CDC that will make it clear that any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctors' orders," Pence said. "Several governors said to me that there was an impression that the test would not be administered to people who were only mildly symptomatic. We are issuing new guidance — effective immediately — from the CDC that will make it clear that any clinician on health authority can administer the test."

So far in America, nine people have died in Washington State and more than 100 people have been diagnosed throughout the country. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.

People wear face masks as they ride the air train inside the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 03, 2020.
VIEW Press / Getty

As the virus spreads in the U.S., however, testing capacity has been limited, compounded by the fact that the initial test kits the CDC sent out didn’t work as they were intended to, ABC reported. Public health labs on the state and local level can currently test 15,000 people, the network noted, citing the FDA. The agency is working to expand that by the end of this week.

As the virus has now infected various states including New York, Rhode Island, and California, health experts insist that if a person has even mild symptoms, they should stay home, The Washington Post reported. That way, emergency rooms aren’t overwhelmed with mild illness, freeing up health care workers to treat those patients who are critical.

“If you feel well enough that if it weren’t for coronavirus you wouldn’t see a doctor, don’t see a doctor,” Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told the Post.

If your symptoms are more serious, you should call your primary care doctor, Maria Raven, chief of emergency medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, added. And if someone is experiencing severe symptoms, including being very short of breath or unresponsive, 911 should be called.