Facts Align With Trump’s Admission That He Intentionally Slowed Down Testing

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Trump often seems to equate more tests with more cases. DHHS has yet to use billions of dollars set aside for 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.

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