Frustrated by criticism of the United States’ coronavirus testing capacity not meeting the national need, White House testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir booked an interview with CNN to defend the country’s screening for the virus.
“I really felt compelled to come on this afternoon after hearing Doctor [Ashish] Jha this morning, because just about everything he said was the opposite of what really is,” Giroir said of the director of the Global Health Institute at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who had spoken earlier on CNN.
“Admiral Giroir fundamentally misunderstands the purposes of testing, which is unfortunate, because he is our national testing czar, so you think he would have a better understanding,” Jha said, irritating Giroir.
In his earlier interview, Jha said the country wasn’t doing enough testing, especially for infected but asymptomatic people, meaning the people who could unwittingly infect others with the virus. But Giroir told CNN’s Pamela Brown that the level of testing of which Jha spoke was unrealistic.
“There is no physical way to do 5 million tests per day in this country,” Giroir said. “If there is a way to turn it from 1 million to 5 million today, let me know.”
Giroir said he called Jha to ask whether he has any ideas to increase testing.
“We want to increase testing,” he said. “I spend every day trying to increase testing. What I want people to understand though is that testing is not the panacea; it’s not the answer.”
“It needs to be in a supportive, strategic role,” he said in support of targeted testing, such as screening nursing home residents.
Brown pressed Giroir on the accessibility of testing, as many Americans have waited days for results.
“There is nothing else the administration can do to get more testing?” she asked, also mentioning the country’s positivity rate — which is about 7 percent of those tested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization recommends countries lift restrictions only after positivity rates remain below 5 percent for two weeks.
“Everything that can possibly be done has been done,” Giroir responded.
He also said the country’s poor positivity rates could be attributable to other factors, such as people not complying with social distancing and mask-wearing.