On Tuesday, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, illustrated again how far off Trump’s March 6 claim was. Fauci was asked on CNN when everyone who needs a test will be able to get one.
“Hopefully, we should see that as we get towards the end of May, the beginning of June,” Fauci said. “That’s what I’m being told by the people who are responsible for the testing. I take them for their word.”
TAPPER: When will everybody who needs to get a test be able to get one?— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) April 28, 2020
FAUCI: Hopefully we should see that as we get towards the end of May, the beginning of June. That's what I'm being told by the people who are responsible for the testing. I take them for their word. pic.twitter.com/MOW1kYR54c
Even as Trump has continued to tout U.S. testing, the United States has lagged behind many countries, and reported testing availability has lagged far behind completed tests. Nearly one-third of governors have said they lack sufficient coronavirus testing supplies needed to reopen their states.
On Saturday, Fauci said the United States can and should double the current number of coronavirus tests it is performing. Other public health experts have said the United States needs to at least triple current testing and have said the lack of widespread testing and tracing could lead to second or third waves of the coronavirus. Economists have said reopening the economy too soon could hurt economic growth more in the long term than reduced growth in the short term due to stay-at-home orders.
Amid ongoing testing issues, Trump has repeatedly shifted his public assurances. After saying anyone who wanted a test could get one, Trump pivoted to blaming states and the Obama administration. By April 10, Trump was downplaying the need for widespread testing only to pivot again earlier this week.
“We’re going with maximum testing, because it’s something we’re very capable of doing,” Trump said during a coronavirus news conference on Monday. “We’re going to be much higher than doubled on testing very shortly.”
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is helping lead the administration’s coronavirus response, did not dispute Fauci’s testing timeline on Wednesday.
“Somebody asked me why it took so long; I actually said you should look at how did we do this so quickly,” Kushner said of testing on Wednesday. “We don’t want to let Dr. Fauci down, and we will make sure that we get enough tests into the markets so that we can responsibly test people.”
Less than 24 hours after saying the United States would double existing testing “very soon,” Trump pivoted again and said the country would soon increase testing to 5 million per day.
“We’re going to be there very soon,” Trump said on Tuesday when asked if the United States will start completing 5 million tests per day. “If you look at the numbers, it could be that we’re getting very close.”
In April, the United States completed fewer than 200,000 tests per day on all but six days, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The United States did not complete a total of 5 million tests until Saturday, over three months after the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the United States.
By Wednesday, Trump had pivoted to denying that he said the nation would “soon” be completing 5 million tests per day.
“Do I think we will? I think we will, but I never said it,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Wednesday. “We will be there, but I didn’t say it.”