Facts Align With Trump’s Admission That He Intentionally Slowed Down Testing
Common Dreams report that after President Donald J. Trump claimed in a Tulsa, Oklahoma rally that he asked his “people” to “Slow the [COVID-19] testing down, please,” two senators have discovered that this may indeed be the case.
- $8 billion meant to fund COVID-19 testing, set aside by Congress as part of a $25 billion appropriation, have gone unspent.
- Another $4 billion provided for contact tracing has been completely unused, as well as $2 billion set aside to provide COVID-19 testing for the uninsured.
- Thus, the total unspent money is approximately $14 billion.
- Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, calling on him to “immediately disburse the remainder of the $25 billion in funds to ramp up testing and contact tracing capacity.”
They also wrote,
The Administration has full discretion to spend, as it sees fit, more than $8 billion of the $25 billion provided by Congress. With COVID-19 cases spiking in numerous states, the Administration has not released a plan to distribute this funding. It is critical that the Administration disburse the $8 billion immediately with an emphasis on addressing two major unmet needs: contact tracing and collecting data on COVID-19 racial and ethnic disparities.
The country’s current contact tracing workforce is inadequate to deal with the new spike in COVID-19 cases. Leading public health groups say state and local governments need $7.6 billion to quickly scale up contact tracing.
Trump has previously appeared critical of testing, having said on May 20 that “if we didn’t do testing at a level that nobody has ever dreamt possible, you wouldn’t have very many cases” and “If we did 3 million [tests]—maybe that’s what we should’ve done. I said—if I would’ve done 3 million, they’d say, ‘Oh, they have very few cases. United States is doing well.’”
And in a rally at Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 20, Trump said,
You know testing is a double-edged sword… When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people. You're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, “Slow the testing down, please.”
Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Washington Post that “Looking at [COVID-19 testing] as a scoreboard is the wrong way to think about it.”
To think of it as something you can manipulate or slow down based on what the numbers look like speaks to a complete misunderstanding of what an infectious-disease response should be.