President Donald Trump and public health officials on Monday defended the administration’s COVID-19 testing efforts, highlighting work underway to ramp up supply lines and sharing with governors color-coded maps pinpointing 5,000 locations of testing machines throughout the country they said are not being used to capacity.
“States need to evaluate their capacity,” Trump said. “Some have more capacity than they understand. Some of the governors didn’t understand it. We’ll work with all the governors. We are there to stand with the governors.”
Trump said “hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing, and able” to expand testing. He claimed that Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and others were unaware that their states have more testing capability than what’s currently being realized.
Hogan on CNN said he wasn’t sure what Trump was referring to, adding that “most of the governors already knew where the lab facilities were in their states,” The Daily Beast reported.
Trump also mocked Democratic governors and lawmakers who’ve pushed hard for a comprehensive national testing plan, accusing them of playing politics. Complaints over a lack of ventilators weren’t “playing well,” he said, alleging Democrats were trying to “get him on testing.”
Trump hinted, however, that his administration and lawmakers were close to a deal that could boost a small business loan program by $450 billion, despite continued debate over testing.
Trump added that the U.S. “cannot be reliant on foreign nations” for testing materials and medical equipment.
“Let’s build it here. Let’s make it here,” he said. “We’ve got to start bringing our supply chains back.”
Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, noted that the administration has “focused on every piece of the supply chain” for several weeks.
Brad Smith, deputy administrator and director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said more than 30 million COVID-19 testing swabs would be secured over the next few weeks. One company in the northeast, he said, would add four new production lines and another company in Ohio that is the largest maker of Q-tips is converting to making testing swabs.
Smith said every governor received a memorandum detailing laboratory capacity in all locations that can perform the coronavirus test.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said the data showed “the full capacity” within states “and where tech assistance and additional supplies might be available.” She added that the military and Veterans Affairs “have stepped up in every way for testing and care,” and noted that military facilities are available for testing in several states.
Birx said for now, officials were focused mainly on testing first responders, health care providers and the people most vulnerable to contract the disease.
“That’s where the tests will be most reliable,” she said.
Birx strongly urged Americans to continue to follow stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines for the time being.
“This is a highly contagious virus,” she said. “We don’t know by looking at someone whether they have preexisting conditions or not, so all of us must continue to do the recommendations to ensure that when we’re (asymptomatic), we’re not spreading the virus.”
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