President Donald Trump is defending the decline in commercial coronavirus lab testing as health experts are sending a warning about reopening the country too soon.
During Thursday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump claimed experts are saying the curve has flattened and there were no new coronavirus cases in roughly 30% of the U.S. in the last seven days.
He also boasted about the increase in the number of tests being performed at hospitals and academic institutions. Downplaying concerns about the decline in commercial testing, Trump argued that the change is a “great thing.”
“In recent days we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of tests performed by hospitals and academic institutions,” Trump said. “Some of the media falsely reported this as a bad thing when in fact it’s a great thing because it indicates that the states are moving to faster, more local testing solutions including on the spot tests.”
The president expressed urgency to reopen the country as he argued that the shutdown is not “a sustainable long-term solution.” He also believes reopening would preserve the health of American citizens.
“America wants to be open and Americans want to be open,” Trump said, adding, “A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution. To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.”
President Trump says White House coronavirus experts agree the U.S. can start moving into a new phase of reopening the country: "A national shutdown is not a sustainable, long-term solution." https://t.co/9T8aUPjUrs pic.twitter.com/K9hL1iXdie— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 16, 2020
However, health experts are pushing back against Trump’s claims, noting how critical testing could be to ensure a safe reopening while weighing the possibility of resurgence of the virus.
According to Politico, health experts argue that the decline in commercial lab testing — which dropped from 108,000 on April 5 to 75,000 on April 17 — comes at a time when testing should be more robust.
In addition to the widely used test to determine if a person is infected with the virus, health experts argue that an array of different types of tests are needed to compile accurate numbers and statistics to ensure Americans’ safety while reopening the economy.
It has also been noted that tests to confirm coronavirus cases are also limited.
“’Testing capacity’ is not just test kits or test sites, or lab reagents, or trained staff, or protective equipment needed for sample collection, or ability to do contact tracing, or ability to do disease surveillance or ability to process samples,” New Yorks Times Editorial Board Member Jeneen Interlandi tweeted. “It is all of those things.”
"Testing capacity" is not just test kits, or test sites, or lab reagents, or trained staff, or protective equipment needed for sample collection, or ability to do contact tracing, or ability to do disease surveillance, or ability to process samples. It is all of those things.— Jeneen Interlandi (@JInterlandi) April 17, 2020
Yale infectious disease expert Gregg Gonsalves weighed in, noting the importance of scaling up testing and continuing social distancing guidelines instead of looking for what he describes as a “short-cut” to reopening the country.
“There is path out of [coronavirus] that doesn’t end in maximum carnage (deaths, economy). It’s strong social distancing now, massive scale up of testing, contact tracing, isolation, PPE, hospital capacity,” Gonsalves tweeted. “Yet, we’re back to ‘when can we open’ as if there is a short-cut that will work.”
There is path out of #COVID19 that doesn't end in maximum carnage (deaths, economy). It's strong social distancing now, massive scaleup of testing, contact tracing, isolation, PPE, hospital capacity. Yet, we're back to "when can we open" as if there is a short-cut that will work.— Gregg Gonsalves (@gregggonsalves) April 15, 2020
During a call with the president on Thursday, multiple governors also expressed concern about the limited testing capacity and its potential impact on Americans.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) also expressed apprehension about sending Americans back to work with delayed test results.
“I don’t think we can get back to normal unless you develop a vaccine,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said.
As of Friday morning, there are more than 672,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. with a death toll of more than 33,000.