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On Monday, President Trump and Vice President Pence both downplayed the idea that hospitals had been overrun during the coronavirus outbreak. Trump has also in recent days suggested testing in the United States is going swimmingly.

On Tuesday, a guest they invited to the White House undercut those claims.

Michigan state Rep. Karen Whitsett (D) has become something of a celebrity on Trump-friendly media like Fox News for crediting her hydroxychloroquine treatment with her recovery from the coronavirus, and for praising Trump for promoting it, even as she comes from the other major political party. But while her anecdotal account has fed optimism about the unproven treatment, other things she said Tuesday contradicted the assurances we’ve been getting from Trump and others in his administration.

Whitsett said during a White House roundtable Tuesday that she was grateful for the treatment she received. But she also said certain members of her family haven’t been so lucky.

“I’ve lost several family members to covid — all in one household,” she said. “My cousin, Cheryl Fowler, was in ICU. She lost her husband. He was turned away from numerous hospitals, as was she — over four times. And within six hours, she lost her father-in-law, who was turned away numerous times.”

The idea that people are being turned away from hospitals is something both Trump and Pence had rejected — including less than 24 hours before.

“No one who has needed a hospital bed has been denied a hospital bed,” Trump said Monday.

Pence added later in the daily briefing, “Our hospitals were not overwhelmed and are not overwhelmed at this hour.”

Trump has also downplayed continued reports of testing problems, saying Friday, “We have a great testing system. Right now, we have the best testing system in the world.”

Whitsett and her family offered a similar account of their troubles to the Detroit Free Press a week ago. At the time, they indicated family members had sought treatment and tests but hadn’t been able to get them. Whitsett said she didn’t believe she would have been able to get tested had she not been in the state legislature. Family members corroborated the account:

Keith Gambrell, 33, the son of Cheryl Fowler and the stepson of Gary Fowler, said his mother was taken to Henry Ford after she was turned away Tuesday night from Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, despite having a high temperature.
Beaumont Health can’t comment because of federal health privacy laws, said spokeswoman Maryanne MacLeod. Beaumont, which is Michigan’s largest hospital system, has about 1,500 workers — including 500 nurses — off the job because of coronavirus symptoms, the Free Press reported Monday.
Gambrell’s stepfather, Gary Fowler, who raised him and whom he considered his father, tried unsuccessfully to get tested [at] three different places and was repeatedly told he probably just had bronchitis, Gambrell said.
Gambrell, who was not sure whether his stepfather had a primary care physician, said Fowler went to Beaumont in Grosse Pointe about two weeks ago, then to Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit on Friday, followed by Detroit Receiving Hospital, and finally back to Beaumont on Sunday. None would test him for coronavirus, he said.
“I just feel like no one is trying to help the black community,” said Gambrell, who owns a cleaning company and lives in Detroit. “They send black people home to die.”

The account from the Free Press article suggests this was a matter of testing and not necessarily available hospital beds. And other reporting from the Free Press has indicated Wayne County, home to Detroit, had plenty of beds — at least as of early April.

But the situation in the area had deteriorated, and CNN reported Tuesday that one hospital in the city has been so overrun that it is storing bodies in vacant hospital rooms because its morgue was full. “All I know is we ran out of beds to keep our patients on so we couldn’t spare any for the bodies,” one anonymous emergency room worker said.

Trump has repeatedly offered premature and false assurances about the response to the coronavirus, saying more than a month ago that anybody who needed a test could get one. Despite Trump’s comments on Friday about the “great testing system,” White House coronavirus task force member Anthony S. Fauci said in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, “We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet.”

Whitsett’s account — delivered at the invitation of the White House on Tuesday — seemed to back up Fauci’s account, rather than Trump’s assurances.