President Donald Trump again insisted that the country was in “very good shape” in its coronavirus testing, even as some governors say their states don’t have adequate supplies. Meanwhile, other governors have already announced the reopening of certain businesses as early as this week.
At Monday’s White House coronavirus briefing, Trump claimed the U.S. was testing people “at a number nobody thought possible.” When “PBS NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked the president about the “outcry” from both Republican and Democratic governors about a lack of access to testing, Trump shot back that “it’s not bipartisan, it’s mostly partisan. More important, it’s incorrect.”
“No matter what I do... no matter how well we do, if I came up with a tablet, you take it and this plague is gone, they’ll say Trump did a terrible job because that’s the political sound bite,” Trump said, after insisting that “we’ve done a really good job with testing.”
“Not everybody believes we should do so much testing,” the president continued, after Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, had detailed the government’s goal of ramping up testing to the point of being “over-prepared.”
“You don’t need so much,” Trump added. “The reason that the Democrats and some others maybe… they want maximum because they want to be able to criticize, because it’s almost impossible to get to the maximum number, and yet we’ve been able to do it already.”
For weeks, governors have decried the lack of supplies needed to carry out adequate testing. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Sunday said it was “delusional” for Trump to claim the U.S. currently has the testing capacity needed for states to relax social distancing measures. Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, told CNN that Trump’s claim that states have enough tests “is just absolutely false.”
Experts have called out inefficiencies in the ways tests are currently being administered around the country, from unclear federal guidelines on who can get tested to a lack of swabs and other supplies needed to complete the tests.
Meanwhile, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Monday that their states will begin to reopen parts of the economy as soon as Friday. In Georgia, gyms, barbers and hairstylists, will be allowed to return to business Friday, with restaurants allowed to open April 27. Their announcements came as dozens of protests against stay-at-home orders, organized by right-wing activists, popped up across the country.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the U.S. had not yet developed the testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the economy.
The White House released criteria last week for states to assess how to reopen their economies in phases, including first reaching 14 days of declining cases and strong testing before any reopening.
Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that the country has “enough testing capacity today” for states to start “phase one” of reopening economies once they reach the criteria of 14 days of decreased infections. Giroir echoed that the U.S. was “ready right now to enter phase one.” But Giroir also acknowledged that, although there are millions of tests “in the marketplace,” there have been “end-to-end issues” given the multiple elements needed, from swabs to “transport media.”
Brad Smith, the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, walked through the complex, disparate elements that make up testing at Monday’s White House briefing. Those elements include supplies to conduct tests, ways to transport tests to labs and equipment to process them, which “sometimes they come together, sometimes they come separate,” as he put it.
Trump said Sunday, and Smith echoed it Monday, that the president will use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of swabs necessary for coronavirus testing in the coming weeks.
As expanded testing and “contract tracing” of COVID-19 cases will be key to reopening the economy, Pence said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be deploying teams to every state to assist in the tracing.
As some states announced a gradual reopening of businesses, other states are being notably more cautious. Though New York has apparently passed its peak of cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the state was “not out of the woods,” and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city, which is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the country, won’t reopen for “weeks, if not months.”
Similarly, in California, as right-wing protests against the stay-home order took place around the state in recent days, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted Monday for people to “stay home.”
The U.S. continues to lead the world in coronavirus cases and deaths, with more than 770,000 confirmed cases as of Monday and more than 41,000 deaths.
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