White House coronavirus task force member Admiral Brett Giroir clashed with CNN anchor Jake Tapper on the insinuation that the Trump administration is “afraid” to ramp up coronavirus testing because it might make the president “look bad.”
Trump has consistently cited an increase in testing when confronted with news of case spikes and even made a joke at last month’s rally in Oklahoma that he had asked administration officials to slow down testing. However, White House coronavirus task force members, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have made clear that the president hadn’t actually made any such request.
“There seems to be this reluctance to push the president to do what he needs to do to get the testing up to speed,” Tapper told Giroir during Sunday’s “State of the Union.” “I know that he is under the misguided impression that more testing is bad and makes him look bad. Which as you know is completely false. And I’m wondering if you and others are just afraid to do this because you don’t want to upset him … Are you afraid to bring this up to President Trump because it will upset him?”
“Everyone of the administration understands the importance of testing,” Giroir responded. “Nobody in the task force is afraid to bring up anything to the vice president or the president. Every time I met with the president he is listening to all the data. He assesses that, he understands it. I meet with the vice president almost every single day. No one is trying to stop testing in this country. No one has ever told me to do that. We want more. We want better. We want quicker. So let me just put that to rest right there.”
The coronavirus task force member told Tapper that the administration looks for “every opportunity” to invoke the Defense Production Act, but contended that oftentimes it’s not needed because companies are “highly motivated to stop the pandemic” and have “private capital investment” to expand operations.
The two then engaged in a back and forth over whether that was enough. Tapper at once point called testing the “weakest part of the response to this virus.”
“I started out by saying that we are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours and I would be happy with point of care testing everywhere,” Giroir responded later in the interview. “We are not there yet. We are doing everything we can to do that. What can we do? We can test everybody in a hospital within 24 hours so they can get the new treatments that we developed. We are point of care testing in nursing homes or prioritizing all nursing homes because that’s where 50% of the mortality are.” (RELATED: Trump Says Dr. Fauci ‘Would Like To See’ Country ‘Closed Up For A Couple Of Years’)
Citing continuous improvement starting from “zero,” Giroir said: “There was not a swab in the stockpile. There was not a testing strategy in the stockpile. That’s not this administration. That’s multiple administrations. We have increased it 140 fold and I will do everything I can every day to improve that. If you have a specific suggestion, and I answered what you said, we’re happy to talk about it. There’s no barrier here.”