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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., slammed the Trump administration on Monday for what they say is the lack of “a serious plan for increasing testing” for the novel coronavirus as the death toll from the contagion nears 100,000.
The statement – also signed by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions – comes a day after the Department of Health and Human Services sent to Congress its plan to expand testing for COVID-19.
“After six months and nearly 100,000 lives lost, the Trump administration still does not have a serious plan for increasing testing to stop the spread of the virus,” the Democratic lawmakers said in their statement. “This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.”
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Still, the HHS report, which was mandated under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, argues that the U.S. is meeting its testing goals and rapidly expanding access to tests for the virus, despite concerns from some governors and public health officials that they lack proper testing materials.
“The nation has now performed over 12 million nucleic acid tests, with more than two million tests completed each week; and the numbers continue to grow,” the report states. “The rates of testing vary widely by state, with states experiencing the worst outbreaks generally performing substantially more tests than states less affected.”
Pelosi and Schumer in their statement pushed back at this assertion – saying that “the country is far short of what we need” and that the Trump administration has failed to provide a clear path to meet the country’s testing targets.
“In this document, the Trump administration again attempts to paint a rosy picture about testing while experts continue to warn the country is far short of what we need,” the Democratic lawmakers said. “We still need clear explanations for how targets were set, how they will be met and what will be done if they are not.”
Complaints about testing are not just coming from Trump’s Democratic detractors in Congress.
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in her state – saying the federal government sent her a batch of swabs that won’t work with some kinds of tests for the virus.
Whitmer said that while Michigan has increased its ability to test people for COVID-19, the state’s efforts have been hampered by a shipment from Washington of foam swabs – which she says won’t work with a number of tests being conducted to detect the pathogen.
“We still don’t have swabs for a number of test kits,” Whitmer told Fox News in a phone interview. “Simple things like not having the right swab can stop us from reaching our goal in testing.”
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.