White House has confirmed a second coronavirus case among West Wing staff, this time in VP Mike Pence’s office. President Trump addresses concerns.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that the country is on track this week to pass 10 million coronavirus tests conducted, and announced that states would be receiving additional funding for testing.
Trump said the U.S. has been conducting about 300,000 tests per day and the number will go up “substantially.”
“This week the United States will pass 10 million tests conducted, nearly double the number of any other country,” Trump said.
States will be receiving $11 billion in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to help governors meet their testing goals, the administration announced Monday.
“This has all been approved, we’ve gotten it done, completed. The money is going out,” Trump said. “This major investment will ensure that America continues to conduct more tests than any country on Earth by far.
The money is going to states, territories and tribes, with the states hardest hit by the coronavirus receiving up to $500 million. The cash will be allocated to states partly based the “burden of COVID-19” as well as the population estimate of each state, a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call earlier on Monday.
Admiral Brett Giroir said the federal government is “going to be very specific” in requirements for states to receive funding.
“There needs to be minimum numbers to be planned to test. They have to have plans for their vulnerable communities, including nursing homes, including those who are disabled, including those in prisons or who have working environments that they may have a more likelihood to spread the infection.”
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Nearly 80,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus and at least 1,324,000 cases have been reported, but the administration has insisted states are ready to begin lifting social distancing restrictions that have decimated the U.S. economy and left millions jobless.
Trump touted the federal government’s relationship with state governments on providing a “capacity that’s at this point virtually unlimited” for testing and ventilators. Some state governors have clashed with Trump over the availability of resources in the last few weeks.
“I said from the beginning that the federal government would back up the states and help them build up their testing capacity and capabilities, and that’s exactly what has happened,” Trump said.
The president touted that the U.S. is conducting about 300,000 tests per day on Monday, but researchers at Harvard’s Global Health Institute projected last week that the country needs to be conducting more than 900,000 tests per day in order to safely lift restrictions by May 15.
Four states that have already taken steps to resume public life – Florida, Georgia, Texas and Colorado – have not met the bare minimum of tests required to safely allow Americans to return to work and children to return to school, according to researchers.
There was one distinction made during the Monday briefing, though. Trump said anybody who “wants” a test can get one but then tweaked his messaging after a reporter pointed out that there are more people in the country than there are tests.
Giroir stepped in and said that with the country’s current testing capacity, anybody who “needs” a test is able to get one. He specified that those with respiratory illness symptoms or who are being contact traced can get tests.
“That’s over 3 million tests per week. That is sufficient for everyone who needs a test, symptomatic, contact tracing, and to out best projections, the asymptomatic kind of surveillance to get that, and that’s the way it is,” he said.
Trump added, “If people want to get tested, they get tested, but for the most part they shouldn’t want to get tested. There’s no reason, they feel good. They don’t have sniffles, they don’t have sore throats.”
The president said if someone does “feel there’s something happening,” they are able to get tested.
The announcement comes as the White House is facing fresh scrutiny for insisting it’s safe for the rest of the country to return to work while requiring testing and contact tracing efforts for members of its staff – tools that not yet been made widely available.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, penned a Washington Post op-ed criticizing the Trump administration for suggesting the country is ready to open without providing states the adequate testing capabilities its offering to its own staff.
White House officials sent West Wing staff an email on Monday stating that they must wear a mask upon entry and social distance from colleagues whenever possible, according to a senior administration official. Aides were also told that the White House will provide a mask to anyone who needs one.
Administration officials are taking extra precautions after two aides tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Vice President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman, Katie Miller, tested positive for coronavirus along with a Navy valet who had been in the same room with Trump on Tuesday.
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