From CNN About Trump’s Actions: Trump Dismisses Testing Problems

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

The big question of the day is why, weeks into the pandemic, state governors and medical professionals still say the US testing infrastructure is inadequate.
Trump opened up his briefing by saying that the US had conducted more gross tests than a list of developed countries.
The administration now celebrates the completion of just over 4 million tests. Yet on March 9, Pence pledged that 4 million tests would be distributed by the end of that week.
Testing is so important because experts argue that millions of tests per week may be necessary to detect, trace and isolate coronavirus infections to ensure there is not a resurgence of the virus as the nation slowly opens. Such a spike could quickly overwhelm hospitals and confound hopes of an economic opening.
But state governors warned on Sunday that they need more federal help with testing, specifically in acquiring reagents and swabs needed to make the testing kits they do have work.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland conceded that the administration was ramping up testing.
But he added on CNN’s “State of the Union” that “to try and push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false.”
Vriginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said on the same show that claims by Trump and Pence that there were enough tests available should all states want to open back up was “delusional.”
“We’ve been fighting for testing, it’s not a straightforward test. We don’t even have enough swabs believe it or not,” Northam said.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said he could “probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight,” with more reagents.
The President, however, appeared to mock such complaints, appearing in the briefing room with a swab that he opened with a theatrical flourish in front of the cameras.
“Reagents and swabs are so easy to get,” Trump said. But in a recognition that the opposite is the case, the President invoked the Defense Production Act to surge production of swabs to an addition 20 million per month.
But his move again raised the question of why he waited so long to act, a consistent undercurrent of his leadership during the pandemic. Experts and medical professionals have been warning for months that a reagent shortage was almost certain to occur.
The administration’s promises on testing would be far more credible were it not for the repeated claims that testing in the country, as he put it again Sunday, was in “great shape.”
And the President also made a fresh attempt to offload blame for the testing issue onto governors, fueling an impression that much of his strategy is about shielding himself politically.
“The governors wanted to have total control over the opening of their states. But now they want to have us, the federal government, do the testing,” Trump said.
“Testing is local. You can’t have it both ways.” Strictly speaking Trump has a point. Testing is conducted in hospitals, clinics and elsewhere. But the traditional role of the federal government in a time of crisis is to identify problems where states individually, or collectively, appear to be having a problem and to take steps to mitigate it. The President just doesn’t seem to believe his office implies such a duty.
The testing issue parallels Trump’s fury about the question of ventilators. Several weeks ago, several hotspot states feared that they would run out of the machines, forcing doctors to make agonizing life-and-death decisions. Trump appeared resentful that he was asked to use a federal stockpile of ventilators and finally invoked wartime powers to surge their manufacture.
The public’s embrace of social distancing, the practice of doubling up patients on the machines, and states that managed to buy ventilators from overseas meant the feared crunch never arrived. Trump Sunday argued that he was right about not needing as many ventilators. This is one case where his attitude in the heat of the moment might have ended up robbing him of a share of deserved credit.
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