Trump Thinks Governors’ Pleas for More Coronavirus Tests Are Fake News

Trump Thinks Governors’ Pleas for More Coronavirus Tests Are Fake News

As President Donald Trump pushes forward with his intention to reopen the country—and some Republican governors go along with him—the president is insisting that a key component of the country’s reopening strategy is in far better shape than it actually is. Trump continued to hype the U.S.’s testing capabilities Monday, using his press briefing to claim that the country is in “good shape” with testing even as governors, public health experts, and others on the ground are emphasizing that’s not the case. “We did a really good job with testing,” the president claimed Monday. “We have tremendous testing, tremendous testing capability.”

Continuing his hands-off approach to the coronavirus response that put the onus on states to secure their own medical supplies and issue their own stay-at-home orders, Trump’s rhetoric on testing Monday once again blamed governors for their inability to get the testing supplies they need. The president insisted that governors’ grievances about testing are merely overblown and based on a lack of awareness about what the federal government is doing, rather than true shortages in capacity. “The federal government has already made immense testing capabilities available, but some states need to take action to fully utilize it,” Trump claimed, saying that “some states have much more capacity than they actually understand” and that some governors, like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, simply “didn’t really understand what was going on.” As Republicans like Hogan, Democrats, and public health experts all highlight the need for the U.S. to ramp up its testing capability, Trump instead maintained that testing complaints are a “mostly partisan” political grievance meant to derail his election effort. “It used to be ventilators, ventilators, ventilators, and now it’s testing, testing, testing,” Trump said Monday, later adding, “We’re dealing with politics, we’re dealing with a thing called November 3.”

States and experts, however, have made clear that the reported shortage in U.S. testing isn’t some made-up complaint to thwart Trump’s reelection, but a real problem that renders the country incapable of truly understanding how the coronavirus has spread. The Atlantic reported Thursday that the U.S. has “hit a ceiling in its testing capacity,” with no “steady upward trajectory” in tests since April 1. This means that while coronavirus cases currently appear to be declining—prompting Trump and the GOP’s push to prematurely reopen the country—more testing could reveal that’s not the case, and that coronavirus cases are flattening or even increasing. More testing is also necessary for the country to safely reopen without spurring a new surge of cases, as those with mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 need access to testing to ensure they aren’t unknowingly spreading the virus. New estimates from researchers at Harvard University project that the U.S. would need to triple its current testing capacity in order to safely reopen the country, going from the current rate of 146,000 people tested per day to between 500,000 and 700,000. “We can’t let anyone go back to work until we’re confident that the case numbers have stabilized,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the Wall Street Journal. “There’s no way to do that effectively without testing.” (Trump’s testing czar Brett Giroir has made clear that the administration is working to increase testing further, though the president still downplays the need to do so. “Not everybody agrees that we have to do that much testing,” Trump claimed Monday.)

While Trump may insist that states’ failure to ramp-up their testing is simply an issue of them remaining willfully blind to his administration’s bountiful resources, access to more testing has been legitimately hampered by massive supply chain and organizational issues. “It is a little bit insane. Everyone is running around trying to get as much as they can from every vendor,” David Grenache, the lab director at TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, told the Journal about private labs’ attempts to get necessary testing supplies, noting that “laboratories are competing with each other to get needed resources” and often fail to get what they need. And with the lack of a coordinated effort to direct what testing resources are available, other testing labs face a completely different issue: having plenty of testing capacity—but a shortage of tests to actually take advantage of it. Dr. David T. Pride, director of the molecular microbiology laboratory at University of California San Diego Health, told the New York Times that confusion over available testing labs and “convoluted” systems directing tests to labs meant his lab was conducting far fewer tests per day than they can handle. “You know the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come’?” Pride said. “We built it and nobody has come.”

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